Acer Server Enters the Ring to Contend for Data Center Deployment

 
 
By Cameron Sturdevant  |  Posted 2011-05-10
 
 
 

Who knew Acer made servers? And knowing that Acer does make servers, should IT managers care? After testing the Acer AR380 F1 at eWEEK Labs, the answer to the second question is "yes."

The AR380 is a rack-mounted, 2U system that is roughly comparable to competitors' offerings in terms of compute and physical configuration, but jumps ahead when it comes to no-cost data center features, including remote access and rail kits.

For eWEEK Labs images of the Acer AR380 in action, click here.

The AR380 isn't perfect, and IT managers should keep the following drawbacks in mind. For one thing, the hard drives are mounted upside down. I don't think this has any real bearing on the lifespan or performance of the drives, but it was disconcerting and made me wonder what other components were turned around inside the unit to make everything fit. Also, I had to use a screwdriver to gain entry to the chassis. In an age of toolless server hardware, this was a surprising find. These concerns aside, the AR380 meets the requirements to be considered for deployment in an enterprise data center.

Among these requirements, the AR380 has plenty of room for the compute and memory needed to run dense, virtual workloads. As tested, my system was equipped with two Intel Xeon X5675, six-core CPUs, 24GB of DDR3 (double data rate type 3) RAM, eight 146GB 15K rpm SAS (server-attached storage) hard disk drives, and four 1G bit on-board LAN ports.

The two-socket system can use either Xeon 5500 or 5600 processors. There are 18 DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots that support up to a maximum of 192GB of RAM. Using Serial ATA drives, the AR380 has a maximum disk capacity of 12TB. Using SAS drives the maximum configuration is 9.6TB. The AR380 lists for $2,438. As tested, the system cost $9,167. There was no additional fee to enable remote console access to the AR380 via the built-in baseboard -management controller. Take a look at this eWEEK slide show for more on the system's features.

The AR380 proved to be an able compute platform in my tests. The system scored an average of 14,093 on Geekbench 2.1.13 from Primate Labs. This is the first server system on which I've used this benchmark, but the number puts the AR380 at the lower end of the pack of similar, Intel Xeon systems. It is important to note that as of my tests, there were no other Xeon 5675 public results listed at Primate Labs for direct performance comparison. I incorporated the AR380 into our Microsoft Windows Hyper-V server group. I ran virtual machines with a variety of workloads with no problem on the AR380.

Putting the AR380 into a standard four-post equipment cabinet was easily accomplished without tools. The rail system is included at no extra charge. The AR380 isn't terribly heavy, but does require two people to lift and maneuver the chassis into the rail system. A cable-management arm is available as a paid option.

In the Rack 

The AR380 was shipped to me already running Microsoft Windows 2008 R2 Standard edition. After physically installing the server, I joined it to our Active Directory test environment. I then installed the ASSM (Acer Smart Server Manager) on a virtual Windows 7 system in the domain and physically cabled the AR380's BMC port to our network.

To a certain extent, you get what you pay for, and the ASSM is no exception. Some of the initial screens come up branded as the Gateway (another Acer brand) manager and components in the management software bear a 2009 copyright date. I configured the no-cost ASSM to discover my single AR380 system and add it to the Web-based management console.

Like offerings from competitors Dell and HP, ASSM provides a range of physical monitoring and very basic management tools along with a smattering of advanced system-management features. After the AR380 was discovered and polled by ASSM, I was able to get to see a number of system alerts. For example, I had pulled off the chassis cover to look inside the system. When I looked at the AR380 through the ASSM console, I was warned of the fact that the chassis had been opened. I accessed the AR380 directly and cleared the alert. When I subsequently logged on to the ASSM, the AR380 showed up in the console with a clean bill of health.

I was able to use remote-access tools without needing to apply any additional licensing-unlike with competitors' tools. Thus, I was able to remotely access the AR380 to perform maintenance or control the system from my desk.

Implementing the ASSM on the AR380 will place very little burden on IT. I was able to integrate the ASSM user interface with our Microsoft Active Directory so that user credentials were easy to manage on the AR380. I was also able to make changes to the level of access granted to users so that I was assured that junior administrators wouldn't make changes that inadvertently brought down my AR380.

 

Editor's Note: The "as tested" price was corrected.

 

 
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