Dell PowerEdge SC1430 review

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In issue 144, we took an exclusive look at Dell’s ninth-generation workgroup and rack servers. Now we turn our attention to its latest entry-level servers. For such a small system,the new SC1430 packs one hefty punch. It delivers support for a pair of Series 5000 or 5100 dual-core Xeon processors and offers plenty of expansion possibilities. It’s aimed firmly at small businesses with up to 20 staff looking for a general-purpose workhorse that can handle file and print services along witha dash of email, database and web server apps.

Dell PowerEdge SC1430 review

For its entry-level products, Dell doesn’t provide its full OpenManage suite, as it’s unlikely the target market is going to need remote web browser management or access to an IMPI controller. Instead, you just get the Server Assistant supplied on a bootable CD-ROM, which helps with running diagnostics and OS installation. The System Tools section allows you to prepare your hard disks and create a separate partition for storing the system utilities. Server Setup takes you through loading either Red Hat Linux or Windows Server 2003 variants. For the latter, it will offer to set up a system partition, after which it gets on with checking the system, loading the required drivers and running a largely unattended installation.

Physically, the SC1430 is extremely well built and uses the same chassis as that employed by the PowerEdge SC440. Dell has done away with the peculiar clamshell chassis of its predecessor, the SC1420, and gone for a more conventional design. At the front, you have room for a pair of 5.25in devices, with the top bay occupied by a DVD-ROM drive. You’ll need to get handy with your USB devices, though, as the server lacks a floppy drive and PS/2 ports.

Access to the interior requires a lockable lever at the top to be pushed back, after which the side panel pops out. Behind this, you find an unusual design, as Dell has worked hard on reducing noise pollution. And quite right too, as some server manufacturers still fail to understand that small offices don’t want a server wheezing away in the background. The SC1430 has a couple of large fans mounted at the front, with another on the disk cage, and the end result is almost silent running. As we saw with the PowerEdge 2900, Dell’s internal arrangement does make for an interior that at first glance looks remarkably cluttered. However, a closer examination shows that most components can be accessed and replaced easily.

Intel’s new Xeons show their mettle, as it would have been unthinkable less than a year ago to have an entry-level server kitted out with four physical processor cores. Nevertheless, that’s what you have here, as the review system includes a pair of 3GHz Series 5000 Dempsey dual-core Xeons. These are the lower-cost alternatives to the Series 5100 processors and have a slower 667MHz FSB, and a higher power consumption and heat output. However, the latter is handled well, as both modules are mounted with large passive heatsinks that are serviced by the main fan at the front. The power of the four cores is backed up by 2GB of FBDIMM DDR2 memory, with two slots left free.

Storage options are impressive, as the server has room for four hard disks, and Dell offers both SAS and SATA variants. The review system was supplied with a trio of 250GB SATA 2 drives, with one mounted at the front and occupying the floppy drive slot. You can add another above this, but you’ll also lose the only remaining 5.25in bay. However, the power and interface cables are in place ready to receive it. The other two drives are located in cold-swap carriers in a hinged bracket mounted in front of the motherboard. This has a fan mounted on the back to draw air over the drives and across the memory sockets behind. To remove the drives, unplug the single power connector and swing the bracket out from the side.

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