IBM System x3350 review

£3220
Price when reviewed

Server virtualisation may be the buzz word this year but IBM’s latest System x3350 isn’t interested as it’s aimed primarily at environments that don’t require it or are running applications that don’t support it. This single socket server is also offered as a lower cost choice for smaller businesses that can’t justify implementing dual-socket rack servers.

The chassis is up to the typically high standard of build quality we expect from IBM. It’s paid particular attention to cooling as the system’s internal workings have been redesigned to improve air-flow and the end result is the chassis only uses four small dual-rotor fans to reduce power consumption and noise. They’re all hot-swappable and the chassis’ lid has a couple of flaps allowing the fans to be easily extracted.

Despite its low profile the x3350 supports a good range of storage options. For the lowest cost you can start with a basic 3.5in cold-swap dual drive bay and connect the drives directly to the pair of SATA ports on the motherboard. If you want SATA RAID then add the optional LSI-based mini-PCI controller which offers support for mirrors and stripes.

The review system came kitted out with the full works as it had the four drive SFF hard disk bay filled with a quartet of 2.5in 73GB IBM SAS drives. It also had the mini-PCI card installed but this lies idle as the price includes IBM’s ServeRAID SAS/SATA PCI-e card. This occupies one of the 8X PCI-e slots at the rear, delivers support for RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 50, 6 and 60 arrays and also accepts an optional battery backup unit.

The price also includes a tasty 3GHz X3370 Xeon module which uses the latest 45nm manufacturing process, offers a pair of 6MB L2 caches and has a reasonable TDP of 95W. This sits near the front of the motherboard as close to the fans as possible and is mounted by a chunky copper heatsink. Alongside are four DIMM sockets with two occupied by 1GB 800MHz DDR2 modules and maximum capacity is 8GB.

IBM’s design boffins seem to have got it right as we found the server settled down to a gentle hum after power up making it suited to office deployment as well as the data centre. Power redundancy is on the menu as the system came with both 450W hot-plug supplies. It’s also easy on the supply as our in-line meter measured the server consuming 33W in standby and 115W with Windows Server 2003 R2 idling along. With SiSoft Sandra thrashing all four processor cores to the max we saw utilisation peak at only 180W.

Server installation gets off to a good start as you can boot the system with the bundled ServerGuide CD-ROM which has seen a number of improvements to its interface making it even easier to use. It guides you through hard disk and RAID setup, system partition creation, driver installation and loading your chosen OS. Once you’ve provided all the necessary information the rest of the process is largely unattended.

For year’s IBM’s Director has been its mainstay for server management and although the system was supplied with v5.2 this has now been replaced with the latest Systems Director 6.1 which sees some significant and very welcome improvements. Gone is the old triple pane interface to be replaced with a smart new web console which opens with an option to run a network discovery.

It’ll pick up all systems with the Director agent installed and any SNMP-enabled systems as well. Agents have been updated as you now have a common agent which allows systems other than IBMs to be fully managed or you can use the core services agent which supports a reduced set of management tasks but has a lighter footprint.

Warranty

Warranty 3yr on-site next business day

Ratings

Physical

Server format Rack
Server configuration 1U

Processor

CPU family Intel Xeon
CPU nominal frequency 3.00GHz
Processors supplied 1
CPU socket count 1

Memory

RAM capacity 8GB
Memory type DDR2

Storage

Hard disk configuration 4 x 73GB IBM 10k SAS disks in hot-swap carriers
Total hard disk capacity 292
RAID module IBM ServeRAID-MR10i
RAID levels supported 0, 1, 10, 5, 50, 6, 60

Networking

Gigabit LAN ports 2
ILO? yes

Motherboard

Conventional PCI slots total 0
PCI-E x16 slots total 0
PCI-E x8 slots total 2
PCI-E x4 slots total 0
PCI-E x1 slots total 0

Power supply

Power supply rating 450W

Noise and power

Idle power consumption 115W
Peak power consumption 180W

Software

OS family None

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