IBM System x3550 M2 review
IBM announced support for Intel’s new Xeon 5500 processors at the same time as Dell and HP, but it’s taken noticeably longer to deliver them to market.
Build quality is up to IBM’s usual high standard, and it has upped the storage stakes. The x3550 has room at the front for six 2.5in SFF SAS or SATA hard disk in hot-swap carriers, putting it on par with the A-Listed PowerEdge R610, but it’s beaten by HP’s new DL360 G6, which has room for eight SFF drives.
IBM offers a good range of RAID options and you can start without a controller and upgrade to the ServeRAID-BR10i PCI Express card, which delivers support for stripes and mirrors. Next up is the ServeRAID-MR10i in the review system, which brings in support for RAID5 and dual-redundant RAID6 arrays, plus an optional battery backup pack.
IBM has been busy with internal design and the x3550 presents a tidy interior. Cooling is handled by a bank of six dual-rotor hot-swap fan modules arranged across the front of the motherboard, and after power up the x3550 settles down to a quiet hum.
Virtualisation is in the spotlight this year, with both Dell and HP adding SD memory cards slots to their rack servers, allowing them to boot embedded hypervisors. IBM hasn’t gone quite as far – the x3550 only offers a dedicated internal USB interface located on the side of the RAID card riser – but this can be used to boot the server with VMware ESXi 3.5.
Whereas Dell has embedded four Gigabit ports in the R610, IBM has stuck with two, although this can be increased by adding a separate dual-port Gigabit daughtercard. Further expansion looks good as the server has a pair of riser cards, each with a PCI Express x16 slot. There’s room for one half-length, full-height and one low profile card, and you can opt for PCI-X risers instead.
Power redundancy is supported, as the compact 675W hot-plug supply can be partnered by a second unit. The x3550 is easy on the utility supply, with our in-line meter measuring 16W in standby and 100W with Windows Server 2003 R2 idling along. With SiSoft Sandra pummelling all eight logical cores this peaked at only 154W.
For initial server configuration wave goodbye to the BIOS and say hello to IBM’s new UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface). This provides access to a setup menu for configuration, a boot device manager and a smart diagnostics GUI. It’s similar to that provided with the new PowerEdge servers, but Dell does go further as its Lifecycle Controller offers features such as server update tools and the ability to store device drivers for immediate availability.
|Warranty||3yr on-site next business day|
|CPU family||Intel Xeon|
|CPU nominal frequency||2.53GHz|
|CPU socket count||2|
|Hard disk configuration||2 x 300GB IBM 10k SAS SFF hard disks in hot-swap carriers|
|Total hard disk capacity||600|
|RAID module||IBM ServeRAID-MR10i|
|RAID levels supported||0, 1, 5, 6, 10, 50, 60|
|Gigabit LAN ports||2|
|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 rating||675W|
Noise and power
|Idle power consumption||100W|
|Peak power consumption||154W|