Today, the SMB server market is one of the fastest-growing and most competitive market segments for hardware vendors. In fact, small and midsize businesses in North America are expected to spend $276 billion this year on IT, according to a recent survey by market research company eMarketer Inc., of New York.
Larger enterprises are concerned with issues such as power consumption and server footprints and often arent willing to sacrifice performance to get a lower-priced solution. SMBs, on the other hand, are far more likely to put price concerns ahead of everything else. And while heavy hitters such as Dell Inc. and Hewlett-Packard Co. offer a vast array of options for SMBs, an increasing number of new competitors—such as Alienware Corp.—are entering the server fray.
SMBs, which typically are more open to assuming risk than are larger entities, are more likely to adopt new technologies. Thus, it will be interesting to see how quickly dual-core computing is adopted in the space.
In addition to price considerations, an SMBs server purchase will depend on its computing needs. Organizations that want to run processing-intensive applications such as ERP (enterprise resource planning) or CRM (customer relationship management) may want a rack-mountable server with multiple processors. Organizations looking for a server to place in a closet or under a desk might prefer a tower model.
Whether an organization is looking for a rack-mountable server for database applications or a tower for e-mail, the three servers eWEEK Labs reviews here show the breadth of choices that SMBs now have.
ProLiant ML110 G3
HP ProLiant ML110 G3
HPs economically priced proliant ML110 G3 is a good server option for organizations that want the biggest bang for the buck. The G3 version of the server just became available earlier this month and is priced starting at $1,008. The ProLiant ML110 G3 includes a 2.53GHz/533MHz Intel Corp. Celeron processor, 512MB of DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory and a 36.4GB hard drive.
The ProLiant ML110 G3 we tested, which was the first Intel-based dual-core server weve seen, sported a 3GHz Intel dual-core Pentium D processor with 2MB of Level 2 cache and an 800MHz front-side bus, 512MB of RAM, and a 36.4GB Ultra320 SCSI 15,000-rpm non-hot-plug hard drive. The ML110 G3 test unit was also armed with four USB ports and dual NICs and was running Microsoft Corp.s Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition Service Pack 1.
This entry-level server supports a maximum of three hard drives, four memory slots, four I/O slots and six USB ports. The 4U (7-inch) chassis is a nice fit for organizations that want the look and size of a desktop, with the processing capabilities and expandability of a server.
For organizations that want to take advantage of dual-core processing power while keeping an eye on costs, the entry-level ProLiant ML110 G3 server fits the bill.
Alienwares HiveMind 2525
Best known for its hard-core gaming rigs, Alienware entered the SMB server arena with the introduction of the 2U (3.5-inch) HiveMind 2525 server.
This server—which displays an alien on the chassis—will likely appeal mainly to gaming enthusiasts who are familiar with the Alienware brand. However, our tests show the HiveMind 2525 has enough business-minded capabilities to win over many other IT managers. In fact, if money is no object, no server will have more of a gee-whiz factor than the HiveMind 2525, which shipped in August.
The rack-mount server comes with dual Intel Xeon processors that will provide an upgrade path to smaller organizations considering the transition from 32-bit to 64-bit.
The HiveMind 2525 server supports up to 2.4TB of SATA (Serial ATA) or 1.8TB of SCSI hard drive storage. It also supports as much as 12GB of ECC (error-correcting code) DDR2 memory.
We test-drove a HiveMind 2525 equipped with dual 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors with 2MB of cache and an 800MHz front-side bus. The HiveMind included 6GB of DDR2 RAM and was running the Windows Server 2003 operating system. In this configuration, the server costs about $5,000.
Alienware executives are the first to admit that their hardware isnt bargain-priced but claim the customer support the company provides to SMBs is well worth the premium.
Organizations looking for a server to handle mission-critical applications such as CRM and data warehousing applications will find the HiveMind 2525 a good fit, and the server can also be used for messaging and Web hosting purposes. But cost-conscious organizations will probably find a better deal in a server with a little less character.
SMBs looking for a quiet workhorse should consider Gateway Inc.s E-9220T server. This tower machine takes advantage of the BTX (Balanced Technology Extended) chassis design, which incorporates larger fans that spin more slowly for more effective cooling and lower noise levels.
Released in September, the E-9220T supports the single-core Intel Celeron D running at 2.6GHz (with a 533MHz front-side bus and 256KB of L2 cache), dual-core Pentium D chips running at 2.8GHz or 3.2GHz (with a shared 800MHz front-side bus and 1MB of L2 cache per core), and the dual-core Pentium 840 Extreme Edition running at 3.2GHz.
The machine has a starting price of $599; a machine with the Celeron processor, 512MB of main memory (a pair of 256MB dual in-line memory modules) and an 80GB SATA disk will run closer to $938.
We tested an E-9220T with Pentium D dual-core chips running at 2.8GHz and 2GB of DDR2 memory. Our unit also had four USB ports and redundant 500-watt power supplies. In this configuration, the servers price jumps to more than $2,000.
The E-9220T supports multiple hard drive options that provide as many as four SATA or SCSI hard drives, allowing organizations to increase the internal storage to a maximum of 1.6TB. This makes the server a good choice for organizations that need a machine that can grow and adapt with the business. Our test server was also equipped with RAID 5 functionality.
Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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