Tools Distinguish Suns LX50

Sun's first x86-based server provides breadth of features and versatility of Linux in standard 1U hardware.

Although the LX50, Sun Microsystems Inc.s first x86-based server, doesnt stand out when compared with other x86 servers in its class, it comes prepackaged with an arsenal of useful Sun application and developer tools at a competitive price.

Shops that are looking for an inexpensive Linux-based server should consider the LX50 to power Tier 1 applications, such as Web sites, firewalls and streaming media; or as a software development server; or as part of a grid computing farm.

The LX50, which began shipping last month, is Suns first entry into a crowded x86 server market dominated by Dell Computer Corp., Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM. The LX50 uses industry-standard x86 hardware, including Broadcom Corp.s ServerWorks chip set and Intel Corp.s Pentium III processors, and it runs Suns Linux 5.0 or Solaris 8 Intel Platform Edition operating systems.

The LX50 server eWeek Labs tested, priced at $5,295, had Sun Linux 5.0 pre-installed and came bundled with the standard package, which includes Sun MPEG4 Streaming Server, Sun Grid Engine, Java 2 Standard Edition, Sun Open Net Environment Active Server Pages and Tomcat Java Server.

The Sun applications are pre-loaded into the root directory in .tar or .rpm Linux formats. We could install the applications by "untaring" the file or running the .rpm installation, a straightforward process for users familiar with Linux. However, we believe Sun should provide a setup wizard utility to help less-Linux-savvy shops with the server setup process.

Suns Linux distribution is optimized for the LX50 servers hardware and bears a strong resemblance to Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Linux 7.2 kernel. Sun Linux 5.0 has standard services pre-installed, including Apache Web Server and the Samba file sharing service.

The LX50 is positioned to compete with other 1U (1.75-inch) Intel-based servers, including Dells PowerEdge 1650, IBMs xSeries 330 and HPs Compaq ProLiant DL360 G2. Like these other boxes, the LX50 uses Broadcoms ServerWorks HE-SL chip set to support two-way symmetric multiprocessing and Intel CuMine Pentium III processors.

The LX50 configuration we tested featured dual 1.4GHz Pentium III processors with 512KB of Level 2 cache; 2GB of error-correcting-code synchronous dynamic RAM (upgradable to 6GB); a 36GB Ultra-160 SCSI hard drive; and dual 10/100M-bps Ethernet ports.