Supermicro SuperServer 5028D-TN4T first impressions

Posted by Paul Braren on Jun 26 2015 (updated on Jul 10 2015) in
  • Virtualization
  • CPU
  • Memory
  • HomeLab
  • HomeServer
  • JUN 30 2015 Update - New "deep dive inside" 38 minute video now available.

    Since last night's live-streamed unboxing and power-up-ing, I've since spent a bit of quality time off camera with this little beast, installing and configuring and testing ESXi 6.0. While fresh in my mind, I thought I'd share some initial impressions.

    Please don't hesitate to drop your comments, suggestions, and/or opinions right below the article.

    The Very Good

    BIOS ships with these virtualization friendly ENABLED by default, nice! Sure saves time and training for those implementing this little beast, whether that's a co-lo, a hosting site, or a home lab:

    • Intel Virtualization Technology
    • Intel VT for Directed I/O (VT-d)
    • Intel I/O Acceleration Technology
    • Execute Disable Bit

    Wait, there's more!

    • the console redirect (remote console) by Aptio is quite good, right up there with IBM IMM/ RSA / Lenovo IMM / HP iLO, and much better than the quirky external 7 watt Lantronix Spiderduo that I've been using for non IPMI equipped systems

    • once I hard code an IPMI IP address on that dedicated port, I'm done with any need for a locally attached monitor/keyboard/mouse, which is perfect for the designed-to-be-head-less ESXi Hypervisor anyway, and/or Hyper-V, especially GUI-less Hyper-V
    • you can tune things like fan speeds independently of your OS, all using the versatile IPMI web interface

    • you can avoid getting off your tuckus to hit that power switch, instead, use IPMI to remotely power on or off

    • even better, there's mobile versions too, complete with remote console redirect, IPMIView for iOS on Apple Store, and IPMIView for Android on Google Play

    • with ESXi 6.0 on there, the monitoring of internal temperatures, fan speeds, and overall health is extremely detailed, and I didn't even have to mess around with CIM, it all just works

    • compact efficient design, with no vampire drain legacy cruft such as unneeded IDE/audio/GPU, no crummy Realtek NICs, no slow ASMedia SATA2 ports, and all 6 of the SATA drops are SATA3 (6Gbps)

    • there's an extra SATA power drop, and an extra yellow-colored SATA port on the motherboard, I'll need to test them out

    • includes nicely labeled baggies, with variety of needed screws (drive mounts, PCI card, etc.)
    Supermicro clearly states ESXi 6.0 compatibility
    • Supermicro clearly states ESXi 6.0 compatibility here

    • there are 3 fans, but it's fairly quiet overall, certainly very little noise when idle, could even be suitable for desk-side use, as Patrick mentions here

    Once the system is setup, one has the horsepower of a legacy dual socket system in a size, power and noise envelope that is perfect for in-office clusters that reside under a desk or in a closet.

    • very tinker-friendly, with IPMI remote media mounting (ISO, USB key, Web ISO, etc.), can install entire OSs easily without being anywhere near the unit, making this a great box to set in a corner or closet with gigabit-attached IPMI port, making this system fully functional, even if no keyboard/monitor/mouse is attached (no "crash-cart" required)

    • no iLO-like license keys to worry about, point your browser to the IPMI port's IP address for full remote console functions and many other features

    • IPMI has a setting for automatic NTP sync of the clock, use UTC, then set your time zones in your Windows/Hyper-V/ESXi OS

    • IPMI alerts for critical events like reboot are might handy, and email alerts include "SMTP SSL Auth" setting that works for my Cox Communications internet provider over port 587

    The Nitpicking

    aka, constructive feedback

    • power button should be set to hold for 4 sec to power off, by default

    • ESXi setup likes to use F2, this can be tricky when using the Remote Console of IPMI, easily fixed through remapping

    • Num-lock should ship off, by default, makes for an annoying first-time experience with the "Java iKVM Viewer" IPMI Remote Console

    • dealing with IPMI's required Java (oddly, IE works best with iKVM), which can be a bit annoying, but it's an IT Pro's reality for now, until something like HTML5 can catch up with similar features and functions (media mounting, etc.)

    • can't front access the internal 5th or 6th drive 2.5" bays, but the AHCI ports are hot-swap (aka "Hot Plug") capable

    • can't disable 10GbE, likely an Intel thing not a Supermicro thing. When idle (no drives, idling at BIOS screen), watt burn is showing low anyway, so that interface is likely smart enough to avoid vampire drain anyway, (no driver loaded in ESXi 6.0 by default, , for example)

    • my particular unit arrived with a cable tie cinched up a bit too tight, making the SATA3 signal cable come up a little short when trying to attach it to a 2.5" drive I put into the top internal Bay 5 (easily fixed with a new looser cable tie)

    • clearance for finger release of the blue DIMM socket near the IMM RJ45 connector is made a little more difficult due to low clearance

    • seems full-length 80 mm M.2 storage can be fitted to this mobo as-is, with a stand-off ready, complete with screw, moving this stand-off to the other available hole would give you 42 mm M.2 length

    • had to use a screw driver to get the 4 thumb-screws loosened, bigger diameter would help

    • don't see ESXi in the Drivers & Utilities for this Supermicro X10SDV-TLN4F, just Microsoft, Redhat, and SuSE

    • overall build quality/fit/finish feels like a solid B+ to me, a reasonable trade-off for a more affordable price point than the big guys, but this is a server that will largely be set-it-and-forget-it for many folks

    • all BIOS menus and IPMI web menus look rather outdated, without the lavish stuff you see on gamer motherboards, and I'm fine with that personally

    • could sure use some labels on the backplate, especially to distinguish 10GbE from 1GbE, which tripped me up a bit during the live unboxing/power-up event. Hmm, this could be a good opportunity to come up with a pretty and practical solution. Kind of like the fun stuff those talented folks cook up over on The Home Server Show Forums, as they innovate and improve upon their HP MicroServer Gen8 servers, jamming extra SSDs in there any way they can ;-)

    • low clearance for the bottom 2 RJ45 network ports, making it a little tougher to get your finger in there to press the RJ45 cable release

    • can't fit readily available SMAKN mSATA to M.2 adapter given how close the M.2 slot is to the PCI slot, perhaps Supermicro or other companies could come up with an offset design to get around this minor issue

    • no USB-C connector, but the PCI slot could help there one day

    • front panel USB connectors

    • no ESXi 5.5 support (I suspect it works, but testing that is not a priority for me)

    • no 10GbE support out of the box with ESXi 6.0, easily added via a VIB, once available

    • changing the boot order of the BIOS through Web UI to IPMI, or iKVM's Java based UI, would be helpful

    • occasional random loss of keyboard through iKVM requires restart of iKVM using Web UI, minor inconvenience

    The (Potentially) Bad

    • highest CPU speed is 2.0 GHz / 2.0 GHz Turbo, for some, that may be an issue

    • upgrading the CPU/fan assembly is not an option, but it's not like we didn't see this coming (we were warned in 2012)

    • dust, we'll see over time of the front bezel holes are small enough to catch some, but compact designs like this are less likely to be situated on the floor

    • there is a chance I may have a minor memory issue ("Non-Critical screenshot here) that could need some sort of further action, but I doubt it. I'll check for BIOS upgrades, run Memtest86 for a longer duration, and if needed, open my first ticket with Supermicro support, reporting back on what happens.

    • having 4 USB ports is good, but only the 2 on the back are USB 3.0 (the 5th and 6th come from the extra USB 2.0 header on the motherboard, see adapter to use those extras

    • the trade-off in getting an sort of affordable 8 core CPU that doesn't abuse your power bill means lower GHz, versus a cheaper consumer 4 Intel Core i7 that runs at higher MHz.

    • if RAID is your thing, that's going to take up your one PCI slot, and it would need to be half-height

    So, you'll need to decide up front for yourself. Is that a worthwhile trade-off for you? You will be limited to 2.00 GHz/2.6 GHz Turbo for this permanently married CPU/mobo combo. For my home virtualization lab needs, memory was far more often THE bottleneck in my previous 3.4GHz Core i7 / Z68 vZilla build. GHz isn't everything when it comes to getting work done. As site visitor EJ suggested here, it sure will be fun to informally compare VMmark results, to see for ourselves, see also this CPUBoss comparison. TinkerTry is not really a benchmarking site or a review site, instead focusing on actual implementation.

    The Bottom Line(s) - I like it very much! Great fit for a home lab.

    Am I glad I bought it? Absolutely. So far, so good, so very very good. Considerably easier to install ESXi 6.0 on there than my prior build (my most popular videos), so it would be a great unit to get started with using 4 8GB DIMMs, then grow up with over time. Up to 4 32GB DIMMs. That's 128GB, in the home, holy smokes! Well, no smoke hopefully, and it all just sips less than 50 watts when idle, sometimes far less, more testing to do. Admittedly, I only have two 32GB DIMMs in there now, and one SSD. Inserting some 6TB and 4TB 3.5" spinny drives will up that a bit, of course.

    The browser-based remote control over a dedicated ethernet port, the lack of needing to do anything to get internal health monitoring working, and the modern 1GB Intel I-350 drivers that already earned my trust are already baked right into ESXi 6.0, make this a very simple box to get running. Perhaps a future ESXi version will bake those 10GbE drivers in too, but adding drivers is no big deal. We have to have something to complain about, aka, look forward to, don't we?

    Here's STH's BOTTOM LINE, where Patrick gives a 9.8 overall rating:

    With four port Ethernet (two 10Gbase-T and two 1Gbase-T), solid storage m.2 PCIe x4 and 6x SATA III, a fast and low power CPU (Intel Xeon D-1540) and 128GB of RAM, the Supermicro X10SDV-TLN4F is a must get platform. For those still using Intel Xeon L5520 or L5620 generation processors, one can get more performance in less than half of the power and space footprint which is astounding. For those that always wanted more than the Xeon E3 line could offer in terms of their limited RAM capacity (practical 32GB limit) and core count (4C/ 8T max), this is the answer.

    If you're interested in buying now, read this first, or just

    Place Your Order

    Supermicro SuperServer 5028D-TN4T


    Here's Wiredzone's SKU 10025066 MFG Part Number: SYS-5028D-TN4T listing:

    See also at TinkerTry


    See also


    With four port Ethernet (two 10Gbase-T and two 1Gbase-T), solid storage m.2 PCIe x4 and 6x SATA III, a fast and low power CPU (Intel Xeon D-1540) and 128GB of RAM, the Supermicro X10SDV-TLN4F is a must get platform. For those still using Intel Xeon L5520 or L5620 generation processors, one can get more performance in less than half of the power and space footprint which is astounding. For those that always wanted more than the Xeon E3 line could offer in terms of their limited RAM capacity (practical 32GB limit) and core count (4C/ 8T max), this is the answer.