Rackservers.com RX3M-3200D-5T review

Price when reviewed

If the RX3M-3200D-5T from Rackservers.com is anything to go by, we could soon be looking at the end of SCSI as a serious contender for server storage. Not only does this server deliver the latest Intel processors and chipset, but it comes packed with no less than a dozen of the latest 400GB Hitachi Serial ATA (SATA) hard disks. A total of 4.8TB of raw storage in a 3U chassis was unthinkable less than a year ago and SCSI can’t even come close to this capacity, even if you could afford it. Despite Seagate’s bold claims in 2003, it’s only now that a 300GB SCSI drive is likely to become available, but we were advised that unit prices to end-users will be in the £800-£900 region. Fujitsu is expected to launch 300GB SCSI drives but these are unlikely to be available for a few months yet.

Rackservers.com RX3M-3200D-5T review

Although the RX3M-3200D-5T offers a very meaty specification, the choice of chassis isn’t the best we’ve seen. It does keep costs down, but build quality of this Chenbro RM312XX box is best described as average when compared to the likes of HP’s ProLiant ML370 G4 (see p204). Even so, all the required components are present and correct, internal access is good and you get plenty of power redundancy with a trio of 325W hot-swap supplies. Cooling is handled by a quartet of radial fans behind the drive bays and these are all hot-pluggable in the event of a failure. Another smaller fan is fitted at the rear. We found overall noise levels to be acceptable, although it wasn’t as quiet as the ML370.

There’s a fair amount of cable-related mayhem behind the hard disk bays, as the backplanes for each row of drives require at least two power cables and four individual SATA connectors. But Rackservers.com has made a sterling effort to tidy them up and stop them from blocking the airflow. Yet again, we see another opportunity for 3ware’s Multilane SATA controller, which would have reduced this clutter considerably. Instead, the hard disks are handled by a 3ware Escalade 12-port SATA controller that provides all the same RAID features you’d expect to see in a SCSI-based system. It comes with a decent 128MB of cache memory, which can be upgraded. The review system was supplied with the drives configured as a pair of six-disk RAID5 arrays totalling 1.8TB apiece.

Remote server management gets a boost as the Supermicro motherboard is one of the first examples to come with a BMC (Baseboard Management Controller) card supporting the new IPMI 2 (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) specification. This is accessed via Supermicro’s IPMI Viewer utility, which provides a smart dashboard of gauges for scrutinising temperature, fan speeds and voltages along with controls for remotely recycling power and performing graceful shutdowns. If you install the optional modem on the controller card you can also activate a paging feature for sending warnings to different users based on the event severity. A new feature is Serial over LAN, which provides serial redirection and support for multiple serial connections to the same network port.

Management during normal operations is handled by Supermicro’s SuperO Doctor III utility. Despite its bizarre name this offers a slick remote web browser management interface. You can view a complete rundown of installed hardware, keep an eye on the health of various critical components and manage power cycling. For the latter, a special agent must be installed on the server first, after which you can remotely reset, power off or gracefully restart the server. Remote control facilities are provided by the neatly integrated VNC software and there are plenty of alerting facilities. You can send warnings by pager or SNMP trap and email multiple recipients.

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