Transtec 1U SAS Server review

Price when reviewed

Over the past year, Transtec’s server portfolio has been rapidly expanding and now encompasses a wide selection of products based round Intel and Supermicro chassis and motherboards. The company enjoys putting together some tasty specifications, as we saw with its 1003W storage server, and now we have the new 1U SAS Server. The model name is a little unimaginative and gives the game away as far as storage is concerned. But you’d never guess the Transtec comes kitted out with a pair of 2.8GHz dual-core Xeon processors as well, making it look even better value.

Transtec 1U SAS Server review

As we discussed in our exclusive review of Dell’s PowerEdge 2800, the 2.8GHz Paxville Xeon DP is a standalone product from Intel since it’s separate from the main Xeon product roadmap. The 65nm Dempsey Xeon DP (or Series 5000) processor family is due out early in 2006, but it looks as though Intel didn’t want to give AMD any more headroom to establish itself further in the dual-core processing market. There’s no indication from Intel as to whether this Paxville Xeon DP processor will be offered in faster speeds, so it could be a dead-end in terms of expansion. Nevertheless, our discussions with server vendors have indicated that customers will often skip a generation before upgrading, so this may not be a big issue.

Naturally, you get the benefit of all the key technological features of single-core Xeons. First up is Intel’s Hyper-Threading, and we found both the server’s BIOS routine and Windows Server 2003 identified eight logical processors. Each physical processor is equipped with 2MB of Level 2 cache, while Intel’s Demand-Based Switching and EIST (Enhanced Intel SpeedStep Technology) will allow the processors to reduce their average system power consumption whenever the workload decreases.

The Transtec server is presented using a Supermicro SuperServer 6014H-32 package. As we’ve always found in the past, this manufacturer’s 1U chassis is well built with minimal flexing evident. Our only gripe is that the top panels can sometimes be a pain to remove. In the case of the Transtec server, they required some mechanical persuasion before they would budge. Four drive bays are provided across the front panel and the review system included a pair of high-performance 146GB Seagate Cheetah SAS hard disks loaded in hot-swap carriers.

The server offers up a very tidy interior. Transtec has opted to use Supermicro’s standard SAS hard disk backplane, which incorporates four separate SAS connectors located towards one end of the board. These are linked directly to the single four-port SAS interface on the motherboard, and the use of a short breakout cable reduces any cable clutter. A second four-port SAS interface is hardwired through to the rear of the motherboard, allowing more external storage devices to be attached to the server.

Unlike the Evolution XD1, Transtec didn’t include a separate RAID controller, but some basic functions are embedded on the Adaptec SAS controller chip. Its HostRAID feature supports RAID0, RAID1 and JBOD arrays, and the review system came with the hard disks configured as a fault-tolerant mirror. RAID options don’t end here, as the motherboard offers a SODIMM socket for the optional AOC-SOZCR1 credit card-sized controller board. Costing around £180, this comes with 64MB of embedded cache memory and adds RAID5 to the storage equation. It’s a zero-channel controller, so will simply commandeer the SAS channels when fitted.

RAID management options are a cut above those offered by the LSI Logic card in the Evolution XD1, as the server comes supplied with Adaptec’s Storage Manager. This offers local and remote management capabilities, and its newly designed interface is very intuitive. You can easily access and monitor the controller, arrays and drives and create new arrays on-the-fly. Error notification is particularly good, with Storage Manager able to send messages to multiple email addresses.

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