Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Review A Vision for the Edge

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Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Performance

For this, we had a unique challenge. We could not swap CPUs as this is a BGA solution not a socketed solution. That meant we could only show Xeon D-2183IT performance in this system and single bar charts are relatively meaningless. To work around this challenge, we benchmarked the solution compared to our baseline Xeon D-2183IT and NVIDIA T4 numbers to see the baseline. We then validated that we could compare the D-2183IT to our existing embedded CPU data set.

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 CPU and GPU Performance to Baseline

We first utilized or AVX-512 enabled GROMACS STH small test to see performance under an extremely demanding workload. The Xeon D-2183IT has AVX-512 capabilities and that is perhaps the biggest stressor in terms of performance and power consumption. If anything would get the CPU hot and challenge the system, running high-speed molecular modeling certainly would.

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2183IT V Control System GROMACS STH Small Benchmark
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2183IT V Control System GROMACS STH Small Benchmark

The overall delta was less than 1% over our test runs versus our control Intel Xeon D-2183IT Benchmarks and Review system. That is a great result and we did not see a major dip in terms of outliers in our runs to make up that average (e.g. a result that was >5% lower.) Since this is the highest-power CPU in the SE350, we can reasonably expect lower power CPUs to perform similarly and not be thermally throttled.

On the NVIDIA T4 side, we have an in-depth compute focused T4 review as well as an analysis of the review. We simply wanted to compare to the baseline in our review here:

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 NVIDIA T4 Performance To Baseline
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 NVIDIA T4 Performance To Baseline

The NVIDIA T4 was consistently slightly below what we saw on a larger platform with better cooling. This is close enough that it is within what we consider a test variation, and is not inhibiting the value of the T4 to a great extent. In this system with the highest-end CPU and the GPU we were pushing power and thermal constraints of the system so our sense is that with lower-end CPUs this delta would likely go away.

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 CPU Scaling

With that exercise, we added a Xeon D-2123IT result from our pool along with test data from the SE350’s D-2183IT to show some range of performance.

Python Linux 4.4.2 Kernel Compile Benchmark

This is one of the most requested benchmarks for STH over the past few years. The task was simple, we have a standard configuration file, the Linux 4.4.2 kernel from kernel.org, and make the standard auto-generated configuration utilizing every thread in the system. We are expressing results in terms of compiles per hour to make the results easier to read:

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options Linux Kernel Compile Benchmark
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options Linux Kernel Compile Benchmark

Here you can see a fairly wide range of performance. The Xeon D-2183IT can hit performance levels rivaling higher-end Xeon Silver 4200/ Gold 5200 chips and offer more than lower-end embedded parts.

7-zip Compression Performance

7-zip is a widely used compression/ decompression program that works cross-platform. We started using the program during our early days with Windows testing. It is now part of Linux-Bench.

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options Linux Kernel Compile Benchmark
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options Linux Kernel Compile Benchmark

In terms of compile performance, we can see a performance that rivals the Gold 5100 series also from the Intel “Skylake” microarchitecture generation.

OpenSSL Performance

OpenSSL is widely used to secure communications between servers. This is an important protocol in many server stacks. We first look at our sign tests:

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options OpenSSL Sign Benchmark
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options OpenSSL Sign Benchmark

Here are the verify results:

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options OpenSSL Verify Benchmark
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2100 V Other Options OpenSSL Verify Benchmark

On the OpenSSL side we see 4 and 16 core performance well beyond what the Xeon D-1500 series offers. The Xeon D-1500 series was the line that used Intel’s “Broadwell” microarchitecture aligned to the Xeon E5-2600 V4. Technically, the Xeon D-1500 series is still being sold as a current-generation part, so Lenovo using the higher-end variant is a great move here as it provides more performance albeit at higher power consumption.

Chess Benchmarking

Chess is an interesting use case since it has almost unlimited complexity. Over the years, we have received a number of requests to bring back chess benchmarking. We have been profiling systems and now use the results in our mainstream reviews:

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2183IT V Other Options Chess Benchmark
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Xeon D 2183IT V Other Options Chess Benchmark

Overall, the CPU performance was about what we would expect from the Xeon D-2183IT in the ThinkSystem SE350. We added some AMD EPYC 3000 series embedded results since it is a good potential alternative to the Xeon D-2100 series if Lenovo has customers that want to have different CPU options validated in edge platforms.

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Network Performance

Since networking is a big deal for the Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350, we wanted to quickly test performance:

Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Network Performance
Lenovo ThinkSystem SE350 Network Performance

As you can see, the performance is what we would expect here. We should note that the 10GbE solution is Intel X722 based. We understand some may want 25GbE if deploying clusters, but our test configuration did not have a 25GbE adapter and we would have had to remove the NVIDIA T4 to add one.

Next, we are going to look at power consumption, noise, our STH server spider, and then conclude with our final words.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Aesthetics
9.3
Performance
9.2
Feature Set
9.4
Value
9.0
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Patrick has been running STH since 2009 and covers a wide variety of SME, SMB, and SOHO IT topics. Patrick is a consultant in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about server, storage and networking, building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’m listening to the video on my 2 nd monitor while I’m reading through this. Where’s the 10lb photo that’s in the video at like 4:45? I laughed at that one.

  2. This is so much but absolutely great. We’ve been looking at the SE350 for a project that’s gotten stalled due to distancing. I’m sending it to our team. This is more useful than all of Lenovo’s marketing fluff and the other reviews we’ve found online so far combined.

  3. I’ve got one of these in my lab and really don’t like it. For the model in the review, all the gig ports are hidden behind a switch chip and not exposed directly to the OS – instead you have to configure a “topology” for the ports which makes them access ports on a few VLANs that are tagged back to a backplane NIC that shows up as a NIC via PCIe. That’s incredibly limiting and not all that well documented either.

    Some other observations:
    * activating a license to be able to power on the system was frustrating and involved downloading an app for my phone and tethering the BMC through it and signing up for multiple Lenovo accounts.
    * the external power bricks might make deployments flexible, but when fitting them into the 1U 19″ chassis, it’s a bit sloppy.
    * the RJ45 serial port for the blade is on the back of the unit, and to access it when racked requires snaking a cable into the _top_ of the chassis between the blade and the power bricks.
    * it ships with a ton of extra stuff that you’ll end up throwing away. The thought of having “smart hands” in a datacenter sorting through everything to rack and stack these makes me shudder.
    * the firmware is… different – and didn’t expose all of the options that I expected such as SR-IOV.

    I can only conclude that this was created for use cases and with requirements that just aren’t what I need – and that perhaps I just don’t _get_ edge networking at all, though I’ve got a couple of similar products with other vendors that are quite reasonable to use.

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