Fujitsu Siemens Primergy RX300 S3 review

£3499
Price when reviewed
Fujitsu Siemens has traditionally preferred to follow the pack rather than lead with new server technology. But its latest Primergy servers signal a dramatic shift in focus. Within a week of Intel announcing it was shipping the new Series 5100 Woodcrest processors, we already had Fujitsu Siemens delivering to market and even getting the jump on Dell. In this exclusive review, we take a look at the Primergy RX300 S3, a 2U rack server that targets departmental-level IT services and data-centre applications.

The new processors will be spearheading Intel’s attack on AMD’s dual-core Opterons, which were launched more than a year ago and have been steadily munching away at Intel’s market share. They’re the first Xeons to be based on Intel’s Core micro-architecture and use a 65nm fabrication process. The 5100 family comprises six members, all offering a mixed bag of features and plenty to choose from with regards to power consumption. The RX300 came equipped with a pair of 2.66GHz 5150 processors, which utilise the faster 1,333MHz FSB and have a low TDP (thermal design power) of 65W. All share 4MB of Level 2 cache across both cores, but the 3GHz 5160 has a higher TDP of 80W. There’s also a low-voltage version with a TDP of 40W, but the 5148 isn’t due out until later this year. The 5100 processors are more costly than the Series 5000 Dempsey modules, which we took an exclusive look at a couple of months ago in IBM’s System X3550, and these are offered as a lower-cost alternative.

And so to the server itself, and it’s clear the Fujitsu Siemens design team has been working overtime, as the RX300 offers some tasty features. First up is support for SAS (serial attached SCSI) hard disks. There’s enough room for up to six 3.5in hard disks with a three-drive bay on each side of the front panel. The central section does have a low-profile DVD drive at its base, but the rest has been left clear to allow for unobstructed airflow through the chassis. The lid is easily removed and underneath awaits a tidy interior. With cooling demands in rack servers so high now, it pays to design the internal layout with care. General cooling is handled in the RX300 by a bank containing eight hot-swap fans, and the judicious use of transparent plastic shrouds ensures air is directed over critical components.

The two 5150 processor modules are mounted with industrial-strength passive heatsinks and accompanied by 2GB of FB-DIMM memory. The latter brings in a range of useful features such as advanced memory buffers, serial data paths and improved error detection. The disk backplane is connected directly to the motherboard, which sports an embedded eight-port LSI Logic SAS controller that supports mirrored and striped arrays. You can bring RAID5 into play, as the controller is easily upgraded. Simply place an iButton enabler into a dedicated socket on the motherboard and add a 256MB cache memory module, or there’s another version with an integral battery backup unit as well.

There are plenty of other fault-tolerant features. The embedded Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet adapters can be joined together using the Advanced Control Suite for load balancing and failover. Power also gets a look in, as the server came with a pair of 600W hot-swap units. General expansion options are promising too, as the 2U chassis has room for a riser card with three PCI-X slots on it, with one supporting a full-length card. Other options are available, as the backplate assembly can be replaced with one that accepts vertically mounted cards. You’re restricted to low-profile cards, but with this in place all the PCI-X and PCI Express slots on the motherboard come into play, and one supports hot-plug operations as well.

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