Supermicro X11SCA-F Review for Intel Xeon E-2100 CPUs

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Supermicro X11SCA-F Block Diagram

If you were counting PCIe 3.0 lanes in our review, just based on physical slots, then look at the Intel C246 platform, you will have noticed the imbalance. The Supermicro X11SCA-F has circuitry to allow customization, but it also means that not all slots will be active at all times.

Supermicro X11SCA F Block Diagram
Supermicro X11SCA F Block Diagram

We already covered that the PCIe x16 slots have 16 PCIe 3.0 lanes to use among the two of them. Beyond this, the PCIe 3.0 x4, both M.2, and U.2 slots all share PCIe lanes as described above. That means that using both M.2 slots limits your use of the U.2 and PCIe x4 slot. This array of opportunity gets its PCIe 3.0 lanes from the Intel C246 PCH. That means that the lanes have an additional DMI 8GT/s hop to reach the CPU.

In higher-end Intel Xeon Skylake-SP servers, for example, most of the PCIe lanes will come directly from the CPU, since each has 48x PCIe 3.0 lanes. Even these higher-end designs can sometimes use PCIe lanes in a similar manner. If you are accustomed to higher-end servers, this is something to keep in mind in this segment. The LGA1151 platform from Intel simply has fewer PCIe lanes to use. Supermicro did a great job by giving the system builder flexibility to connect devices easily through its design.

Supermicro X11SCA-F Management

These days, out of band management is a standard feature on servers. Supermicro offers an industry standard solution for traditional management, including a WebGUI. The company is also supporting the Redfish management standard. On this motherboard, we see similar features as we would across the Supermicro X11 range. That means whether you are using an embedded motherboard or a 4U storage server, you will have a similar look and feel to the management experience.

Supermicro X11 Sensors
Supermicro X11 Sensors

In the latest generation of Supermicro IPMI is an HTML5 iKVM. One no longer needs to use a Java console to get remote KVM access to their server.

Supermicro X11 HTML5 IKVM
Supermicro X11 HTML5 IKVM

Currently, Supermicro allows users to utilize Serial-over-LAN, Java or HTML5 consoles from before a system is turned on, all the way into the OS. Other vendors such as HPE, Dell EMC, and Lenovo charge an additional license upgrade for this capability (among others with their higher license levels.) That is an extremely popular feature. One can also perform BIOS updates using the Web GUI but that feature does require a relatively low-cost license (around $20 street price.) That is a feature we wish Supermicro would include with their systems across product lines.

At STH, we do all of our testing in remote data centers. Having the ability to remote console into the machines means we do not need to make trips to the data center to service the lab even if BIOS changes or manual OS installs are required.

Next, we are going to look at the BIOS experience, then give some of our final thoughts on the platform.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Aesthetics
9.3
Performance
9.4
Feature Set
9.6
Value
9.5
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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.

25 COMMENTS

  1. “The Intel Core i3-8300 is absolutely intriguing as one gets an iGPU plus four cores, without Hyper-Threading running at 3.7GHz for around $110. This is a major jump over previous 2 core/ 4 thread Core i3 designs. The Core i3-8300 also supports ECC memory. For those looking at a higher-performance option versus an Intel Xeon D, at a lower cost and without 10GbE onboard, the new Core i3 makes a lot of sense in low-end servers.”

    You really get good deals on this processor, most people have to pay around $ 150.

    Can you also include a Ryzen 3 2200G ($100) which also supports ECC in this test.

  2. Misha that is fair. I got our review i3-8300 for $109 a few weeks ago, but I see prices around $145-$150. I will update that.

    On the Ryzen side, not comparable. It does not have an IPMI enabled motherboard. There is an open FreeBSD hanging issue that is still a concern with Ryzen. We now have EPYC in the hosting cluster, but that was after a Ryzen test node got pulled.

  3. There is another interesting feature in the bios that isn’t mentioned. The SG split graphics option allows 2 really neat setups that are not possible on any other board I have seen. The SG option lets you boot from the AST and still use the Integrated graphics as it activates the IGP display without loading the IGP vbios. Some unique scenarios:
    1) Remote manage the bios and boot with the AST while using the IGP in windows.
    2) Boot from the AST and pass the IGP to a VM (Normally the IGP has to be the primary graphics device for pass through to work)

  4. Patrick, I’ve been considering a new NAS build and while I’ve worked with Supermicro in the past it’s been a while. I’m curious about your experience with the Aspeed BMC. Specifically I’m interested in using an iGPU processor but solely for offloading transcodes to QuickSync. Does use of the BMC require disabling the iGPU or can it just be prioritized in BIOS?

  5. You can boot from the AST and use quick sync, you might need to use the SG option I mention above as I think QS often needs an active display.

  6. To get around the active display requirement just use a standard display emulator dongle. Can be found from all usual suspects for a few dollars at most.

    Slightly more expensive models usually allow you to select specific resolutions as well.

  7. To bad you can’t do a test with Ryzen, FreeBSD 12 should solve the problems as far as I know. IPMI is band in many places because of security risks, so that won’t be an issue for us.

  8. Very interesting how some of the 8th gen Core i3 line has ECC support. Thanks for that tip! I wonder why and whether ECC will eventually be available in the i5/i7/i9 lines.

  9. Can someone clarify the external GPU thing with IPMI?

    I currently have a Asus X299 PRO/SE workstation motherboard with IPMI and the ASPEED2500, with an Geforce 1070ti but i’m unable to use IPMI properly because it’s looking at the wrong gpu.

    Will this motherboard support looking at the BIOS etc when using a discrete graphics card?

  10. Aaron: you may be surprised but this is also known from previous lines of Intel chips where cheap i3 supports ECC (at least some, you need to verify in datasheets!) while i5/i7 not. So although you may view that as Intel tactics change, it’s not.

  11. It is indeed very nice board, but in a light of this year reveals of Intel un-secure chip designs, the board more or less looks like a waste of designer/manufacturer time. Pity, it’s not done for Ryzen.

  12. I agree with KareIG… What should have been an exciting board is overshadowed by the security failures of the chip its built around.

    AMD needs to rub Supermicro nice and get them to produce some better boards for their chips. That way we can pretend we’re getting a safer chip until it’s flaws are found lol

  13. Don’t be ridiculous. The security issues have been mitigated with a lot of effort in the industry to limit the impact. To add, it’s much less a concern for a clearly consumer/small biz platform.

  14. “Much less a concern,” tell that to the 5 man law firm that has a small server in house for… Or a doctors office… Or any number of other small businesses that this board is targeted toward, be it workstation or server. No. Security is always of top concern when you make yourself liable for it.

  15. @Mace: when the largest hacking firm in the world(NSA) considers it as a risk and therefore prohibit it (and the same counts for hyperthreading on intel CPU’s), it can be considered as a serious risk.

  16. Is it possible to use a graphics card (PCIe 3.0 x16 slot), 10 Gb network card (PCIe 3.0 x4 slot) as well as a SSD on M.2 slot (PCIe 3.0 x4) without impact in performance regarding max. available lanes?

  17. Patrick, Very nice, terse review. I noted “x8/x8” on the x16 PCIe slots.
    Is there any chance Supermicro might enhance the BIOS for this motherboard
    to support the x4/x4/x4/x4 add-in cards. There is an obvious engineering elegance
    that obtains from 4 x NVMe SSDs @ x4 PCIe 3.0 lanes = x16 edge connector.

  18. It would appear that the Intel i219LM is not supported in ESXI 6.7.

    It shows up in ‘lscpi -v’, but not listed in the output from ‘esxcli network nic list’ nor the web interface (only the i210 shows up. Means (for now at least) the X11-SCA-F is essentially a 1 link GB board 🙁

  19. I need to run Intel Graphics BUT the SX setting as Rob D mentioned did not work for me. Here is the best I could do. I have the X11SCA-F on a test bench simulating it is 20 miles away with keyboard and monitor and a cable to the HDMI port from the monitor. I leave the factory setting in bios of AUTO for graphics.
    Now from my work computer I have perfect control through IKVM of the X11SCA-F and can run all programs and can fully access the bios just like with my REAL Super Micro servers. The X11SCA-F of course does NOT see the monitor hooked up to its HDMI port.
    Now I use IKVM and go into bios and in graphics change the setting from auto to IGFX. I reboot. Now the user of the X11SCA-F simulated to be 20 miles away has perfect Intel 630 graphics thru the HDMI port. In fact I ran Passmark and the scores across the board including the CPU score ( I3-8100 gives 8540 versus standard of 8062 ) are better than a standard Z370 motherboard! But I have lost control of the Bios of the X11SCA-F! Sure I can reboot it and run it using IKVM or remote access but NOT bios. To access bios from my work station I have to request the simulated user 20 miles away to reboot and in bios change the IGFX setting in graphics back to AUTO. Cumbersome! ANY BODY GOT BETTER? Please advise me.

    ***** If not Serve the home should request a fix like a desk top app that will reboot the machine after having done the change in bios both ways! I have seen similar apps for other purposes on standard Asrock boards *** It should be a piece of cake and SM is a great company and has changed a bios for me on a similar issue on one of their VPro Boards! Thanks SM!

    John Fickling

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