NEC SI1110R-1 review

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Rather than centralise all key applications and services on one platform, many SMBs now distribute them across multiple dedicated servers. NEC’s SI1110R-1 aims to satisfy this requirement by providing a low-cost, compact server with enough power to run a range of applications including firewall duties, email or web services.

NEC SI1110R-1 review

NEC doesn’t have as extensive a range of server products as HP or Dell, and has traditionally sourced many of its rack-mount models from MSI. This is no bad thing, as MSI manufactures some good-quality systems, but the SI1110R-1 is based on Intel’s System Server SR1530AH package. Measuring a modest 506mm deep, it’s designed to cater for environments where rack space is at a premium and, with a decent quad-core Xeon at its heart, it has enough processing power to handle the demands of most SMBs.

The server is well built with a solid chassis and metal front panel, which has room for a DVD-ROM drive along with a USB port and indicators for power, network connections, disk activity and fault warning. As this is the entry model of Intel’s compact rack server range, it supports only a pair of fixed hard disks that are mounted behind the front panel on opposite sides. There’s still plenty of room for a grille between, though, allowing an unobstructed air path through the chassis. NEC hasn’t skimped on storage, either, as the price includes a quality pair of 150GB Western Digital Raptor SATA high-performance drives. The S3000AH motherboard incorporates an embedded Intel SATA controller, and this supports mirrored and striped arrays. It can be managed from Windows, as NEC includes Intel’s Matrix Storage Manager utility, but this only allows you to delete and create arrays, and doesn’t provide any early warning systems for array degradation.

Internally everything is tidy, although Intel doesn’t adhere to the same cable-free philosophy as HP and Dell, as its motherboards are designed to be wired into a range of chassis. The 2.13GHz quad-core Xeon is placed in the centre of the motherboard and topped off with a passive heatsink. Cooling is handled by a pair of blower fans and noise levels were lower than expected. Four DIMM sockets are located alongside the processor, and the 2GB of memory can be expanded to 8GB. As with all compact 1U rack servers, further expansion options are limited, but a butterfly riser card offers a single horizontal PCI-E slot and there’s room for a full-height card.

We found initial installation a cinch, as you boot the server with the ExpressBuilder CD-ROM, which opens with a single screen that asks for the version of Windows being installed, the product key and administrator password. Next, you add your machine name, the system partition size and file format, choose a keyboard, time zone and graphics resolution, and the utility will do the rest. Load the Windows disc when asked and it will add all necessary drivers, and complete the task with without any further intervention.

If you’re using this server to run key business applications and services, you may want to keep an eye on general operations, but NEC doesn’t provide any remote management tools as standard. Intel normally bundles its Server Essentials pack, but NEC has replaced this with the optional ESMPRO SNMP software. The interface could do with some graphical refreshment, but it’s capable of providing good levels of information about monitored systems, using a discovery routine that scans the network and lists all SNMP devices. You’ll need the ESMPRO agent installed first, but with this in place you can query systems directly from a map for hardware inventory and performance graphs of selected components. The ESMPRO remote web access also comes into play and is capable of revealing inventory data, the event viewer and sensor information. However, compared with HP’s Systems Insight Manager, NEC comes up short in the features stakes and it can’t match the ProLiant rack servers for remote management, since most come with an embedded iLO2 chip for full web browser access.

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