This guide is a work in progress. After reading some other people's questions about processors for the Microserver Gen8, including "What's the best choice for ESXi or HyperV use?" I wanted to create some sort of basic guide. For those of you who are geeks, you'll love this. If you're ADD or in the TLDR crowd, skip this thread.
The HP Microserver Gen8 comes with one of two processors stock:
The Intel Celeron G1610T (2.3GHz, 2MB cache, Ivy Bridge)
The Intel Pentium G2020T (2.5GHz, 3MB cache, Ivy Bridge)
Neither are incredibly special, but for a home server running Windows Home Server, Windows Small Business Server, Server Essentials, or FreeNAS, they should do quite well. Performance diferences should be minor between the two. But, what if you want to run virtual machines via a hypervisor like VMWare ESXi or Microsoft Hyper-V Server? Neither of these two CPUs are exactly ideal, as they are missing some of the features of enhanced processors like VT-d instructions, the cache is small, and you have two CPU cores with no hyperthreading support. At this point, an upgrade sounds like a good idea --but what do you choose?
The answer to the question all depends on how many VMs you want to run simultaneously on your hypervisor and what their purposes will be. Tasks like SQL Server, Microsoft Exchange (at least, above a certain number of users), or an applications server require more horsepower than say, a basic domain controller (which even with DHCP, DNS, and other mainstream services, doesn't take a lot of load).
One of the requirements *is* purchasing a CPU with ECC support; this negates many, if not all standard Core i3/i5/i7 processors. Note also, the Microserver Gen8 has a 150w power supply and a 35w TDP fanless heatsink design, something to keep in mind when upgrading --trying to slap in a 95w CPU probably isn't a wise decision.
The Microserver Gen8 has a Socket 1155 platform, and will support Xeon E3 (Sandy Bridge) and Xeon E3 v2 (Ivy Bridge) processors --Xeon E3 v3 (Haswell) processors are a different architecture with a different socket (Socket 1150) and are *not* supported. IMO, these are the five processors to consider when upgrading the HP Microserver Gen8:
Xeon E3-1220L (2 cores, 4 threads, Sandy Bridge)
Xeon E3-1220L v2 (2 cores, 4 threads, Ivy Bridge)
Xeon E3-1260L (4 cores, 8 threads, Sandy Bridge)
Xeon E3-1265L v2 (4 cores, 8 threads, Ivy Bridge
Xeon E3-1230 v2 (4 cores, 8 threads, Ivy Bridge -see caveats)
The L variants of the Xeon family are low voltage. While the 1220L's are not as powerful, they are very low power (20w TDP for the SB, 17w TDP for the IB). This is great if you're only running two VMs and if you want to pack the server to the gills with other items (e.g., more than just the four standard drive bays). The 1260L and 1265L pack more power, but have a 45w TDP, ten watts above the rating of the heatsink in the unit. Still very usable as others testing have found.
The Xeon E3-1230 v2 (4 cores, 8 threads, Ivy Bridge) is a fifth choice. It is less expensive, and people have done this upgrade with success. However, it has a 69w TDP, and I tend to be of the conservative sort --I want as much power envelope left as possible for other devices (RAID controller, extra drives, optical drive), and I also want a cushion that doesn't exceed the heat removal capabilities of the box. If you aren't planning on adding much to your server though, it may be a good choice.
As for Sandy Bridge vs. Ivy Bridge, here's the basic rundown. The Sandy Bridge Xeons have one basic advantage --their heat spreaders are soldered to the CPU die using a fluxless solder process. This provides for more efficient heat transfer. While the Ivy Bridge Xeons would in theory run cooler if this process was used, Intel went cheaper, and now uses thermal paste between the spreader and the die. This means that Ivy Bridge processors actually don't run much cooler than Sandys under load, if at all. Note: If modding is your game, some enthusiasts have managed remove the heatspreader from Ivy Bridge CPUs, allowing direct contact with the CPU die and lowering the heat, or replacing the thermal interface material with higher quality stuff. Do this at your own risk - this VOIDS your CPU warranty and could damage the processor.
On the other hand, Ivy Bridge processors have the following (note: these may provide only negligible improvements depending on the change)
PCIe 3.0 support (probably not necessary even when using a RAID controller or graphics card)
Improved AES-NI instructions (if you are using encryption such as Bitlocker or TrueCrypt, this would be a plus, otherwise negligible)
Improved Floating Point instructions
Improved Intel QuickSync performance. NOTE: Not all of the processors listed have QuickSync (only the 1260L and 1265L v2 do) as not all of these have onboard graphics. Note also that due to the architecture of the Microserver Gen8 (which uses Matrox video rather than Intel Graphics as its primary) that I'm not aware that anyone has tested a QuickSync-equipped processor to confirm that these features operate correctly when such a CPU is in the system. However, should they work, the 1260L and 1265L v2 have the potential to provide a considerable boost to video encoding/transcoding performance if you use an application that supports it; the 1265L v2 will have probably a 20-40% performance increase over the 1260L in this area.
For complete CPU specifications on the Xeon E3 families, check out the following links:
Xeon E3 1200 (Sandy Bridge) family:
Xeon E3 v2 1200 (Ivy Bridge) family:
Wikipedia also has excellent links if you search for "Sandy Bridge", "Ivy Bridge", or "Xeon" to explain history and architectural changes.
Edited by LoneWolf, 23 November 2013 - 11:03 AM.