By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-08-16 Print this article Print

IBMs compact 1U (1.75-inch) xSeries 336 offers impressive scalability and manageability, as well as solid redundancy features. The two-way xSeries 336 will be a good choice for scaling 32-bit applications in server farms or cluster environments.

The xSeries 336, which shipped earlier this month, supports the full range of Intels Xeon EM64T processor, with speeds from 2.6GHz to 3.6GHz. Outfitted with eight DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots and an Intel 7520 chip set, the xSeries 336 can support up to 16GB of DDR2 memory with 2GB DIMMs and an 800MHz FSB.

The xSeries 336 has more DIMM slots than Dell Inc.s EM64T-based PowerEdge 1850, which supports six DIMMs. Memory support will be a big factor with 64-bit applications, giving the IBM system a performance edge.

Click here to read eWEEK Labs review of the PowerEdge 1850. The xSeries 336 system we tested, which is priced at $5,726, had dual 3.4GHz EM64T processors; 2GB of PC3200 DDR2 SDRAM (synchronous dynamic RAM); two 73GB Ultra 320 hard disks; integrated RAID; dual, embedded Gigabit Ethernet; and an integrated service processor. The systems expanded memory and storage capability, along with its strong redundancy, makes it a good choice for organizations seeking a compact server for running front-end Web applications or to serve as a node in Linux clusters used in high-performance computing environments.

The xSeries 336 offers three flexible storage options, with either SCSI or SATA (Serial ATA) drives. The servers front drive cage supports two 3.5-inch Ultra 320 drives, four 2.5-inch Ultra 320 drives or two 3.5-inch SATA drives. Standard two-drive configurations provide integrated RAID 1 (mirroring) support. (The system we tested used 3.5-inch Ultra 320 drives with integrated RAID 1.)

The use of 2.5-inch drives allows the xSeries 336 to support RAID 5 configurations with an optional IBM ServeRAID-6i controller. This level of storage flexibility and high availability is notable. In fact, this is the first 1U system weve seen that offers this level of capability.

Its clear that IBM designed the xSeries 336 with easy serviceability and robust management in mind. The standard Integrated Service Processor provides on-board system monitoring, alerting and power control, as well as simple text control redirection.

For organizations that prefer more advanced lights-out remote management, such as digital graphics redirection or remote floppy/CD, the xSeries 336 can be outfitted with IBMs Remote Supervisor Adapter. The adapter also has a dedicated NIC for system management networks.

To accommodate expansion cards, such as a RAID controller or the optional management card, the xSeries 336 has two standard PCI-X slots: a low-profile PCI-X slot that runs at 100MHz and a full-height, full-length slot running at 133MHz. An optional riser card will let the server support a PCI Express slot for future expansion needs.

The drop-down Light Path Diagnostics panel is well-designed and allowed us to view system fault indicators easily. The panel will be useful in large server racks to help technicians pinpoint problematic systems and service the right component.

Unlike most servers that come with a single top panel for accessing internal components, the xSeries 336s service panel is split into two parts. The rear section slides out to provide access to processors, memory, PCI slots and power supplies, while the front section has two panels that open to allow access to fans and the hard drive cage. This design allows system administrators to easily change out fans and storage components without needing to remove the server from the rack.

We did find minor quirks in the design of the internal components. During tests, the redundant fans detached easily, but replacing them was harder because we had to reconnect the power cable on each fan. We also found replacing the power supplies to be difficult.

The xSeries 336 supports Windows Server 2003, Windows 2000, Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3.0, Novell Inc.s SuSE Linux Enterprise Server 8.0, Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8.0 and Novells NetWare 6.5. (We tested the server running Windows Server 2003.)

Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


Submit a Comment

Loading Comments...
Manage your Newsletters: Login   Register My Newsletters

Rocket Fuel