Intel's Nocona Xeon / Supermicro SuperServer 7044A-82R
Posted on: 08/21/2004 05:00 AM

When I obtained my evaluation version of Windows XP64 Beta, I had relatively high hopes that using it for this review would actually be quite beneficial. I had hoped that we would be able to catch even a glimpse of what a 64-bit OS and software could do for Nocona. Unfortunately, it didn't quite work out as I had originally planned. I was able to get the OS installed after I searched high and low on the internet for the necessary drivers for the SCSI RAID controller and backplane.Once I was presented with the lovely desktop you see to the right, I began to encounter an annoying problem. No network card drivers were installed, which in of itself wouldn't be a big deal. I did what every geek would do. I ventured over to Supermicro's website and hit the product page for the SuperServer 7044A-82R. If you navigate to the driver section, you'll find the network card drivers for the unit for Windows XP64. At this point, I was elated that I would be able to bring the network card online and begin installing all the necessary updates and software I intended on using for testing. Guess what, though? The drivers wouldn't work. Everytime Windows' hardware detection wizard would scan the directory for the INF to install the drivers, it came up with nothing.

Was I disappointed? Definitely. Was I surprised? Not really. This isn't any ordinary network card, it's a dual-port and either there's an issue with Windows XP64 in its current, rather beta state or there's an issue with the drivers. Maybe Intel has rolled together a single package for its network cards for XP64 and support for the dual-port wasn't included. I don't have the answer. I didn't completely give up there, though. I also tried a couple of cheap network cards that I had lying in static bags around the house. As you can probably guess, they didn't work either. Imagine a beta operating system having driver issues.

Of course, even if I would have been successful in getting the SuperServer 7044A-82R online in Windows XP64, what would I have been able to benchmark? The software would also have to be compliant, so I would have ended up running Sisoft Sandra for you all. For giggles, I did throw Sandra on my USB Key and installed it on the machine. The numbers weren't spectacular and considering that I didn't have an opportunity to install all the chipset drivers and such, I didn't consider them trustworthy enough to post here.

The real story on Windows 64-bit performance and Nocona will have to wait for another day. While the SuperServer 7044A-82R will be going back to Supermicro in the next few days, I do have an Intel server with even more memory sitting in the corner. That machine will be used as the basis for my exploration of 64-bit performance in Linux, which will follow sometime in the near future. Looking at my "review/article queue", it's about fourth on the list behind two other product reviews which must come first, and another article I've been wanting to write for some time now.

There is only one more page to digest before you venture off to other websites like Penny Arcade, ESPN or maybe just our forums. It's conclusion time.