Supermicro is an American multinational corporation that designs, manufactures and sells computer hardware, HPC systems and software. Founded in 1993 by Charles Liang, Thomas Young and San Kin Yung, the company has approximately 10,000 employees. Their headquarters are in San Jose, California with manufacturing facilities located across the world in North America, South America and Asia.
Supermicro offers products under the brands SuperServer®, SuperBlade® and Twin Server™. Supermicro was founded in 1993 by Charles Liang, Thomas Young and San Kin Yung to provide server computer systems and solutions for the high-end network computing market. The initial focus for Supermicro was development of the SYS-5038 and the SYS-5039 mission critical server product lines, which were the first systems to offer Intel’s high-end Xeon processors. These servers were powered by Intel’s Pentium Pro processor and packaged in a thermal envelope of under 1 kW. They also featured dual redundant power supplies with active/active cooling, dual integrated gigabit Ethernet networking, eight or more SCSI channels, total bandwidth of 104 GB/s and 24 hot swappable hard drive bays.
Supermicro has been criticized for allegedly dumping electronic waste in improper facilities in China. The company has also been reported for allegedly using banned materials in Motherboards such as Lead and Arsenic. Motherboards manufactured by Supermicro are often used in major supercomputers around the world, but their durability and quality has been questioned. Craig Taylor, a Supermicro executive, stated that “the majority of the boards we assemble are going into servers that have a lifetime warranty.” and that when some boards fail within 18 months it is due to after-market modifications (that are not authorized by Supermicro).
In HPC systems Supermicro has been criticized for allegedly selling cutthroat products that are not easily upgradable, making them obsolete. The issue was addressed by Supermicro with a reply stating that the reason for this is to make their products more competitive on the international market, and their products do allow easy access to components for professional users.
In 2018 it was reported that Apple had banned Supermicro from its supply chain after discovering malware implanted in its motherboards during an FBI investigation into the company’s servers nearly four years ago. In January 2018 Apple made a $390 million deal with Supermicro but later broke down over concerns regarding intellectual property rights and trust issues. HPC systems are therefore vulnerable to compromise by Chinese state-sanctioned cyber espionage.
Claims of surveillance technology (possible backdoors) being sold by Supermicro to China in exchange for access to the motherboards and tampered chipsets have been repeatedly addressed. The company has stated that it will no longer allow any third party access to the motherboards once they are manufactured in order to avoid any tampering and added that it has not given access to its chipsets to any third party.
In addition, Supermicro submitted a report asserting that their X11 and X10 motherboards do not have compromised firmware or microchips embedded in them. The firm released an update statement regarding this matter. HPC systems using X9, X10 and X11 motherboard have been compromised, but no evidence of backdoors in their other motherboards has been reported.
In November 2018, Amazon cut ties with Supermicro after months of investigating the claims, stating that it found no evidence to support a hardware-based attack.
Supermicro SuperBlade is a dense blade system engineered for cloud computing, storage and big data applications including high performance computing (HPC). The SuperBlade family includes high density blades with up to 10 hot swappable 2.5″ SATA SSD/HDD bays in a 7U chassis.
Supermicro is a major supplier to many large companies such as Apple Inc. and Amazon Web Services. Other than business clients, Supermicro also supplies high-performance HPC systems to leading research institutions and universities.
In May 2012, Supermicro was awarded the China Green IT Award 2012 in recognition of its green computing initiatives such as using 100% recyclable materials, green power and its environmental protection programs; specifically the Green IT program.