By Victor Loh  |  Posted 2006-11-20 Print this article Print

Built on Advanced Micro Devices latest Rev F Opterons, the IBM System x3655 server is an efficient general-purpose workhorse with ample room for memory expansion.

The compact 2U (3.5-inch) server, which started shipping in October, houses 16 DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots that support a whopping 64GB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) 667MHz memory.

IBM officials have expressed hopes that the x3655 will occupy a niche similar to the companys bread-and-butter Xeon-powered x3650. The x3655 is suitable for tasks ranging from business intelligence and ERP (enterprise resource planning) to database serving and other applications IBM classifies under the umbrella of business performance computing.

IBM has tended to populate its rack servers with Intel chips, so its adoption of Opterons into System x servers will be a welcome alternative. IBM claims that the x3655 offers power consumption and price/performance comparable to its Woodcrest-laden x3650 server, and AMD fans tout the cost and power savings of DDR2 over the Intel Xeons fully buffered DIMMs.

The x3650 supports CPUs of up to 2.6GHz, and IT managers can choose from AMDs 95-watt or high-efficiency 68-watt 1.8GHz to 2.6GHz Opteron processors to fill one or both of the x3655s open sockets.

Standard expansion options on the x3655 include two low-profile PCI-E x8 slots and a single low-profile PCI-E x4 slot. A fourth slot can accommodate an optional full-height and full-length HTX (HyperTransport), PCI-X or PCI-E x16 riser.

The x3655 supports up to 3TB of internal storage using 3.5-inch SATA (Serial ATA) disks, 1.8TB with 3.5-inch SAS (serial-attached SCSI) drives or 584GB with 2.5-inch SAS drives. All drive options are hot-swappable.

An on-board SAS controller and IBMs ServeRAID 8k-l SAS adapter are included, providing RAID 0, 1 and 10. Optional RAID 5, 6, 10, 50 and 60 support is available with a battery-backed cache.

The server also ships with a pair of integrated Gigabit Ethernet NICs and a TOE (TCP offload engine) as standard equipment.

The starting price for a bare-bones x3655 is $2,359. Our test system, outfitted with two dual-core 1.8GHz Opteron processors, 4GB of DDR2 memory, four 2.5-inch SAS 10,000 rpm 73GB hard drives and a DVD/CD-RW drive, came in at $5,218.

Prices for similarly configured servers from Sun Microsystems and Hewlett-Packard are a bit higher. Also, neither Sun nor HP currently offers an HTX expansion slot, and HPs solution supports only up to 16GB of memory.

Our server came with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 installed. Other supported operating systems include RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 4.0, SLES (SUSE Linux Enterprise Server) 9.0 and VMware 3.0.

Our system also included an IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) 2.0-compatible Baseboard Management Controller, as well as IBMs Director management software. One particularly useful tool in Director is IBMs PowerExecutive, a utility for monitoring power consumption on System x and BladeCenter servers. PowerExecutive reports both actual power draw and maximum configurable draw, based on a servers nameplate, from individual servers, blades, entire racks or customizable groups.

Technical Analyst Victor Loh can be reached at victor_loh@ziffdavis.com.

Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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