I just wanted to update everyone on the Supermicro X7SPA-HF-D525 and X7SPE-HF-D525 review that was posted earlier as I have had a bit more time running the unit, especially as a pfsense appliance. Areas that will be looked at here are a higher-than-spec memory limit (4GB is not the max!), power consumption, and a word about IPMI 2.0 connectivity. Thus far, the network cabinet at home has been rock solid with the pfsense box managing routing duties in a fan-less configuration this week, even after I have been running a lot of network tests on the box. This is one I was able to justify purchasing for the new house which was great.
Memory is not limited to 4GB
First, it turns out that Supermicro’s spec for the X7SPA-HF-D525 and Supermicro X7SPE-HF-D525 is incorrect. Both spec sheets list a maximum of 4GB of RAM that can be used with the CPUs. Of course, as the Intel Atom D525 is 64-bit capable, one could use more than 4GB in many possible applications for these boards. I originally tried using a 2GB stick of DDR3 SODIMM for the review as I purchased the board primarily to be a pfsense appliance and 2GB is fine. Just to test this out, I installed the 64-bit pfsense alongside an additional 4GB DDR3 SODIMM bringing the total to 6GB. As one can see from the following Putty shot, the little board recognized the 6GB!
I subsequently took a 4GB SODIMM out of my laptop and was able to run with all 8GB. Sadly, I did not have any 8GB SODIMMs to try moving to 16GB, but we now know that the Supermicro Atom D525 boards do support up to 8GB, despite what the spec sheet says. One should take note, there is a good chance the older Atom D510 versions support only 4GB as there was certainly something different going on there with the DDR2 memory controller.
With that settled, the next question I got was power consumption. This is a big issue for many users looking to the Atom platform as the goal is to get down to very low levels for sustained use. Frankly with the new 32nm chips, a new board would probably become a new best-buy if they can at least replicate the current functionality and prove it is stable.
Just to give users an idea, with IPMI remote KVM-over-IP open, both NICs working, and a USB flash drive installed I could not push this config over 27-28w. Using the standard power consumption configuration including a 2.5″ solid state drive, I was able to push this to 31w.
Overall, one can see that there is a variance shown for both lower power DDR3 DRAM and the additional hardware of the server board. What is a bit misleading here is that the other platforms have much less functionality.
A Word About IPMI 2.0 Connectivity
One should note that without the dedicated LAN port for IPMI 2.0, it can be much more difficult to administer the machine. I found this out after turning the board into a pfSense appliance. With dedicated IPMI, the IPMI 2.0 NIC can get a DHCP address and name just like any physical NIC. The fix here is to do a few things:
- Use LAN1 as the/ a LAN connection and LAN2 or another NIC as a WAN connection
- Set the IPMI 2.0 interface IP address to something static outside of the DHCP address range of pfSense
- Test this before you put it into a closet/ rack/ data center.
To make this a bit easier here is my quick pfSense/ FreeNAS/ unRAID/ Linux appliance visual guide:
Looking to the new Atoms
I issued a recommendation on this board because it is excellent and something that is a pretty well tested platform at this point going through the D510 and D525 generations. It is likely a 32nm board is on the horizon, but until that is released, and has proven reliable this will remain a best bet in the segment. I think that these boards really present the best-home-build alternative to things like a HP MicroServer, QNAP appliance, or the like where one can get a very low power consumption ceiling and getting a lot of really nice features that are not present on consumer Atom boards.