By Anne Chen  |  Posted 2005-11-21 Print this article Print

Armed with the eServer X3 Architecture chip set, IBMs latest midrange four-way server is a strong choice for small and midsize businesses. The eServer xSeries 260s impressive expandability and spacious internal storage will attract cost-conscious organizations that want to run their workflow on one server.

The x260 relies on the 64-bit Intel Corp. Xeon MP processor—formerly code-named Cranford—running at either 3.1GHz or 3.66GHz. The x260 is available as a rack-mounted setup or as a tower, and it can run on standard 110-volt or 220-volt power in a fully redundant configuration. The server shipped in September and is priced starting at $4,599 for a model with one processor, 1GB of RAM and no hard drive.

Click here to read more reviews of servers targeted at SMBs. eWEEK Labs tested a tower version of the x260 equipped with four Intel Xeon MP (3.66GHz) processors with EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology), 4GB of PC2-3200 DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory, four 73GB SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) hard drives and dual embedded Gigabit Ethernet NICs. The system as tested costs $16,547.

The x260 supports 32-bit and 64-bit x86 operating systems from Microsoft Corp., Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc. It vies with comparably priced four-way servers such as Hewlett-Packard Co.s ProLiant DL580 G3 and Dell Inc.s PowerEdge 6800, which also use Intels EM64T Xeon chips.

As weve stated in the past, this breed of EM64T servers offers a notable performance upgrade to current 32-bit applications, while paving the way for a 64-bit application transition.

The server is dual-core-capable, according to IBM officials, but it is not currently available with dual-core processors. Big Blue is expected to make dual-core processors an option beginning next year, IBM officials said.

The x260 differs from its competitors in the chip set. The system is the first generation of servers to use the IBM-designed eServer X3 Architecture, which links the processors to one another, to memory and to other parts of the system. The HP and Dell systems rely on Intel chip sets for their Intel-based servers.

IBMs eServer X3 servers can outperform comparable Intel chip sets in processor-to-processor tests, according to company officials, because IBM uses an internally developed chip set that integrates the memory controller for faster throughput. For example, the IBM-developed chip set enables less-expensive Intel Cranford processors to outperform the more expensive "Potomac" Xeon MP processors commonly used in servers with four processors or more, IBM officials said.

The 7U (12.25-inch) x260 server can be equipped with as many as 12 3.5-inch SAS hard disk drives. Disk drives that support capacities of up to 300GB can be added, giving the server as much as 3.6TB of local storage fully loaded.

In tests, we found the x260 to be an excellent choice for SMBs that want to use one server to run everything from databases to key applications such as file and print servers.

It should be noted, however, that relying on one x260 means an enterprise has a single point of failure. Organizations that rely on the x260 as a central storage solution should make arrangements to back up data or ensure that business continuity plans are in place. For larger organizations, our test results indicate the server is best suited for branch offices or in distributed computing environments where IT managers can carefully watch their server footprints.

We also found that the four processors make the server a good bet for virtualization applications such as VMware Inc.s VMware ESX Server, which will allow IT managers at organizations of all sizes to take full advantage of the chips.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.

As a senior writer for eWEEK Labs, Anne writes articles pertaining to IT professionals and the best practices for technology implementation. Anne covers the deployment issues and the business drivers related to technologies including databases, wireless, security and network operating systems. Anne joined eWeek in 1999 as a writer for eWeek's eBiz Strategies section before moving over to Labs in 2001. Prior to eWeek, she covered business and technology at the San Jose Mercury News and at the Contra Costa Times.

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