Providing stiff competition in its market space, Sun Microsystems' Intel "Nehalem"-based Sun Fire x4170 packs generous amounts of compute power, local storage, network bandwidth and PCIe expansion capability into a small footprint.
With support for the latest Intel "Nehalem" processors, Sun
Microsystems' Sun Fire x4170 server packs copious amounts of compute power,
local storage, network bandwidth and PCIe expansion capability into a neatly
engineered, 1U footprint.
While there is uncertainty about the future of Sun after Oracle's
acquisition of the company, the Sun Fire x4170 is a compelling offering for
data center IT managers.
The x4170 ably functioned as a virtualization host in eWEEK Labs' VMware
vSphere 4 test environment. The server combines a dual-socket processor
configuration with 18 DIMM slots for up to 144GB of DDR3
RAM and a maximum of eight 2.5-inch SAS,
SATA or solid-state drives.
Sun uses plenty of fans and carefully crafted compartmentalization to keep
the power supplies, disk drives and processors cool. Like one of its direct
competitors, Hewlett-Packard's DL360 G6, the x4170 expels hot air through a
grille in the top rear of the unit instead of straight back to accommodate
connectors and expansion cards.
My test system was equipped with two top-of-the-line Xeon 5570 quad-core
processors, 12GB of RAM and four 2.5-inch
SAS drives. Priced from Sun's Website, the system lists for $9,721.
The x4170 comes with plenty of configuration flexibility, including three
PCIe 2.0 slots (1x16 and 2x8) and dual, hot-swappable power supplies. The
hot-swappable fan systems are mounted behind the disk drives. In a nod to field
serviceability, the top lid is articulated to enable access to the fan trays
without exposing the processors and memory.
The x4170 is part of a family of performance- and capacity-oriented servers
offered by Sun. Because it uses the same basic chassis as the 2U x4270 and
x4270 servers, it's a good choice for organizations that are invested in the Sun
platform and need a reliable, easy-to-service rack-mount production server for
virtualization or for applications such as e-mail and file/print.
ILOM (Integrated Lights Out Management) 3.0, which comes standard on the
x4170, can be used to manage and monitor the x4170. As is common with
rack-mount servers, this feature is accessible via an RJ-45 port on the rear of
the system. For IT managers who want to reduce cabling and per-port connection
costs, ILOM 3.0 can be configured so that it can be accessed via the standard
The x4170 is situated in a densely competitive space. In addition to the HP
DL360 G6, the x4170 competes with the Dell R610 and the IBM
x3550 M2. These two-socket workhorse systems vary primarily in the amount of RAM,
disk drives and expansion slots they can accommodate. However, as they all can
use the Intel Xeon 5500 family of CPUs, their compute performance will vary
The x4170 ties with the HP DL360 G6 both in memory capacity and disk drive
space; both systems have 18 DIMMS and can accommodate up to eight 2.5-inch
drives. The HP system provides two PCIe slots and two GbE network ports, while
the Sun x4170 has room for three PCIe cards and comes with four GbE ports.
Technical Director Cameron Sturdevant can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cameron Sturdevant is the executive editor of Enterprise Networking Planet. Prior to ENP, Cameron was technical analyst at PCWeek Labs, starting in 1997. Cameron finished up as the eWEEK Labs Technical Director in 2012. Before his extensive labs tenure Cameron paid his IT dues working in technical support and sales engineering at a software publishing firm . Cameron also spent two years with a database development firm, integrating applications with mainframe legacy programs. Cameron's areas of expertise include virtual and physical IT infrastructure, cloud computing, enterprise networking and mobility. In addition to reviews, Cameron has covered monolithic enterprise management systems throughout their lifecycles, providing the eWEEK reader with all-important history and context. Cameron takes special care in cultivating his IT manager contacts, to ensure that his analysis is grounded in real-world concern. Follow Cameron on Twitter at csturdevant, or reach him by email at email@example.com.