Supermicro SuperServer E302-9D Review: A Fanless 10G pfSense Powerhouseby Ganesh T S on July 28, 2020 3:00 PM EST
Setup and Usage Impressions
Systems such as the SuperServer E302-9D are meant to be operated in a head-less manner (without a display attached). That said, the system does offer a VGA display output using the ASPEED AST2500 BMC SoC on board. The SoC also enables transfer of video-over-IP. Supermicro's user-friendly IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) implementation allows for users to interact with the E302-9D efficiently. A majority of Supermicro's set of IPMI features and tools cater to datacenter managers. In this section, however, we take a look at the implementation from a home-lab / developer's perspective - from setting up the system to its actual deployment and usage.
After installing the build components in the system, the unit was connected to the AC mains and its IPMI LAN port was connected to the management network. By default, the IPMI LAN port is capable of obtaining an IP from the DHCP server in the network. A knowledge of the IP allows users to directly navigate to that using any modern web browser. Access to the interface is protected ny a login. Recently, Supermicro started configuring unique BMC passwords for their rackmount systems. For embedded systems like the E302-9D, the ADMIN / ADMIN combination continues to work.
The gallery below presents some of the options available using the HTML interface. With modern browsers, it is possible to utilize the HTML5-based iKVM (Keyboard/Video/Mouse over IP) viewer.
Supermicro also offers a GUI software application in IPMIView (reliant on the OpenJDK runtime) that can be used for, among other things, discovery of Supermicro IPMI clients in the network. An overview of the capabilities offered by IPMIView for the SuperServer E302-9D is provided in the gallery above. The console relies on a Java-based iKVM viewer.
The BIOS options for the server can be configured via the iKVM interface. The video below presents a walkthrough of the available features.
The BIOS allows both UEFI and legacy boot options. It also allows the configuration of the priority sequence for the boot device within a single drive (at 5:32 in the above video). Boot overrides are also possible from within the BIOS.
Triple-Booting the E302-9D
The presence of 8 network ports (not considering the IPMI LAN port) in the system makes it a suitable candidate for use with a router / firewall distribution such as VyOS or pfSense. Developers and homelab enthusiasts have different platform preferences. In order to test out the behavior of the system across representative scenarios, we decided to set up a triple-boot configuration with Windows Server 2019 Standard x64, Ubuntu 20.04 LTS, and pfSense 2.4.5.
Three different bootable USB drives were created for the installation media for the three operating systems. The drives were physically connected to the system prior to triggering the installation via the iKVM console. It is also possible to mount images as virtual media - in this respect, the Java-based iKVM viewer works in a more user-friendly manner compared to the virtual media settings in the browser interface. Windows Server was installed first, followed by Ubuntu, and finally pfSense.
Setting up the triple-boot was fairly uneventful, with the main challenge related to modifying the grub config to allow visibility of all three OS installations. We were pleased to find that all network ports were up and running right out of the box, without the need for explicit driver installations.