The Supermciro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 is one of the more obtuse model names, but it is certainly one of the most exciting embedded servers we have seen in some time. It takes the same CSE-300 chassis footprint and adds extra space for more storage. By stretching the case from 1U to 1.5U, the expansion capabilities of the chassis increase dramatically. In our review, we are going to look at the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4’s key features. We will then test the performance and power consumption of the onboard AMD EPYC 3251 8-core, 16-thread SoC.
Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 Overview
For some of our readers, the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 will have an extremely attractive form factor. At 10″ x 2.6″ x 8.9″ this chassis is about 1.5U. More importantly, it fits into the same footprint as Supermicro’s CSE-E300. That means one can stack a CSE-E300 above or below this unit even though the AS-E301-9D-8CN4 is 1.5U instead of 1U.
Since we expect this will be a popular way to deploy these units, here is what the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 looks like stacked above a Supermicro CSE-E300 based server:
As one can see, the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 in the CSE-E301 adds the extra half-U top but otherwise is the same main portion.
One can see the rear I/O of two USB 3.0 ports, a management IPMI port, and a VGA port for standard rear I/O. There are four 1GbE ports using Intel NICs onboard. We wish this setup had 10GbE enabled, and that is a common point of feedback for Supermicro’s launch M11SDV-based solutions. One can see the low profile rear I/O slot to the right in the above picture. On the far left, there is a DC power input. We normally do not highlight the power input, but here Supermicro has something interesting. There is a locking 150W DC power brick part number MCP-250-10128-0N for the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4. This is important since it helps secure power to the chassis. If you compare this with more consumer-oriented options, the DC power on consumer systems is easy to accidentally unplug which takes down the system.
Opening the top to access storage takes four screws, then one can slide the top out of the way. Here we have two brackets installed. Note, we had a sticky note that said “optional” on the brackets and some of the cables we are using. We are using an early sample of this server, so we are going to ask our readers to verify with their resellers what comes with the chassis, and what they need for their specific storage configuration.
If one is using a 15mm drive, or a single drive here, one can simply affix them to the screw mounting points. Likewise, we can see some putting a 3.5″ drive here, although we think SSDs are a better match. The brackets allow for up to two 7mm SSDs to be installed into each mounting point and there are three mounting points. We have two of the mounting points populated with a third to the right unpopulated.
We installed these two SSDs on different levels in the bracket so you can see the elevations. There is not a ton of airflow, but it was sufficient in our testing. These brackets have another nice feature, they support tool-less drive installation. Clips hold drives in place. They are not the sturdiest feeling brackets, but with SSDs, they work fine. It also means that there are two screws to hold the bracket in. Then, one can skip needing to use eight screws to install two drives to the bracket. That saves installation time.
The Supermicro M11SDV-8C-LN4F this system is based upon only has four SATA ports so one is unlikely to have six drives here. This is an area where we wish Supermicro added more connectivity. On the other hand, Supermicro has Intel-based solutions where we could see these extra mounting points being used.
With 8 cores and 16 threads, the AMD EPYC 3251 is a fast SoC. We installed 64GB of RAM, along with a SATA DOM (one supported in the Gold SATA III port) and a NVMe SSD in the low profile expansion slot. That expansion slot is more likely to have the PCIe 3.0 x16 slot filled with a networking option since the system uses quad 1GbE. We also have all three chassis fans installed. When we took this photo, we did not have a M.2 SSD installed, but the unit supports up to a 2280 or 80mm NVMe SSD in this slot.
You can read our full Supermicro M11SDV-8C-LN4F Review that goes into more detail around the platform. The platform is designed to be compatible with Supermicro’s Intel-based offerings so one could design an Intel Xeon D or Atom version of the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4. You can also check out our overview video here.
One item we noted is that one can see that we have a SATA power cable installed. The unit itself uses a 150W locking power adapter to provide power to the motherboard. Supermicro has a special cable to split that power to SATA power for drives sitting in the top portion of the chassis.
We wanted to take a moment and share one point of frustration. The Supermicro CSE-E301 that the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 is housed in is an easy to use solution. There is one point we would like to see improved in the future: screws. By the time one opens the chassis, installs drives (even using “screw-less” mounting brackets), and installs an add-in card, one has used over a dozen screws. Even upgrading RAM or swapping a SATA DOM is likely to require at least eight screws. In the future, we would like to see Supermicro campaign to use fewer screws in their chassis to make them easier to service.
Next, we are going to look at the Supermicro AS-E301-9D-8CN4 management and topology, before getting to our performance and power testing.