Uniwide UniServer 3546ES review

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HP may be the kingpin in the AMD server marketplace, but Uniwide Technologies aims to change all that. Established in 1992, this Korean manufacturer launched its UniServer products in 2003 and is now targeting the European market.

Uniwide UniServer 3546ES review

A key feature of all Uniwide servers is their total support for AMD, so look away now if you’re an Intel fan. The company was welcomed into AMD’s worldwide Server Validation Program in 2006, along with Supermicro and Tyan, and now offers an impressive selection of rack and pedestal solutions. In fact, of these three manufacturers, it probably has the largest range of AMD products and, in this exclusive review, we look at the top-of-the-range UniServer 3546ES Opteron MP rack server.

The biggest competition to the UniServer comes from HP’s ProLiant DL585 G2, which is a formidable opponent. Dell also comes into the fray with its well-specified PowerEdge 6950. With the 3546ES, Uniwide has gone down the same design route as HP and Dell, as this 3U chassis offers lots of expansion and component redundancy. Both Supermicro and Tyan favour low-profile 1U solutions and, as we saw in our exclusive review of Armari’s 1040C8B, they may offer a superb processing density but are limited in these two critical areas.

Our first impression on unpacking the server was that build quality looked very good, as this is a weighty beast constructed of solid steel. Some thought has also gone into design, as the 3546ES doesn’t have the crude industrial look of a Tyan chassis. The drive bay has room for six hot-swap drives, and the price includes a quad of 73.5GB Fujitsu SAS hard disks. Power redundancy is well catered for, since the enclosure alongside the drives holds a trio of 500W hot-swap supplies. There’s room at the front for a low-profile DVD drive, and the status panel alongside has two USB ports. Press the button next to it and the panel pops out to reveal a floppy disk drive behind.

So far the UniServer is looking good, and it gets even better with the lid removed, as the internal layout shows good design and easy access to all components. The main motherboard is located in the rear half of the chassis and looks after two of the Opteron processors and associated memory banks. The other pair is located on a separate daughterboard, which sits above and mates with connectors on the main board. The only problem here is that the daughterboard doesn’t have a quick-release mechanism, so you’ll need to get handy with a screwdriver to remove it. Cooling is handled by a pair of 12cm-diameter hot-swap fans, which also provide airflow through the drive cage. Be careful when removing these, though, as we found it’s possible to put them back the wrong way round so they don’t mate with the power connector.

Storage options abound, as the motherboard sports embedded six-port Nvidia SATA and eight-port LSI SAS controllers, and the latter breaks out into a pair of internal four-port connectors, plus an external interface on the rear panel. Nvidia supports RAID0, 1 and 5, while LSI only offers mirrored and striped arrays. This is all academic, however, as Uniwide has included an LSI RAID controller that adds support for RAID5, 10 and 50 arrays. There’s plenty of room to expand, with a good choice of PCI-X and PCI-E slots, although the processor daughterboard location does stop two slots from taking full-length cards.

Remote server management is a key requirement for support staff, and this is where HP leads the way, since nearly all of its ProLiant servers have an embedded iLO2 chip that allows them to be accessed via a web browser from the box. The 3546ES isn’t so sophisticated, but the motherboard does have an embedded IPMI2 controller, which can be accessed remotely using the bundled ServerDome software. It will also keep an eye on servers that have the ServerDome Linux or Windows agent utility and SNMP service loaded. The console presents a nicely designed interface, with plenty of operational information about fans, voltages, processor temperatures and so on. Each component has preset thresholds and, if any of these is breached, you can request an automatic shutdown and power-off, and have warnings sent via email and SNMP trap. The 3546ES does have a KVM over IP port at the rear, but at the time of review Uniwide was still developing the controller card, which will cost around £80 and slots into a dedicated port on the motherboard.

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