1U Rack Servers

Introduced over six years ago, the humble rack server has grown massively in terms of capabilities and has rapidly become one of the top choices for companies looking to maximise the potential of floor space in their server rooms.

Whether they be ISP's, ASPs or businesses requiring data centre services they can't afford to have valuable office space wasted and need a solution that packs the maximum amount of processing power into the smallest amount of floor space. The latest 1U rack servers offer one of the best densities on the market and are versatile enough to deal with a wide range of duties such as compute nodes, HPC, dedicated database or email serving, web hosting - the list is endless. In this month's group test we've gathered together eight of the very latest 1U rack servers from all the big names and to keep them on their toes we only stipulated that each system should be Intel-based and cost no more than 3,000 exc. VAT. Apart from that, we gave them plenty of room to maneuver by leaving the hardware specification requirements wide open.

Of the nine vendors invited only one is conspicuous by its absence. IBM was unable to attend and advised us it did not have sufficient internal resources to deal with our request.

Even a quick glance over the specifications of the participants shows what technological achievements have been made in the past year. Intel's shift from single to dual-core Xeon processors has had a huge impact on their capabilities as in one fell swoop it has allowed processing density to be doubled for the same amount of given floor area. However, although Intel offers both Series 5000 'Dempsey' and 5100 'Woodcrest' the latter has become the processor of choice for a number of reasons. The 5100 series may be more costly but is based on Intel's Core technology so has a lower power requirement and smaller heat output. With internal real estate at a premium, rack server cooling needs to be extremely well designed and 5100 processors offer TDPs ranging from only 80W down to a mere 40W. Even better is the SilverEdge 1050AL from Evesham Technology as this sports one of the very latest quad-core Series 5300 'Clovertown' processors showing clearly that rack servers have a lot more yet to offer in the processing department.

Storage is also seeing a revolution as standard SCSI in 1U rack servers is all but extinct. Its successor is SAS (serial attached SCSI) which delivers the same high performance but in a package that's easier to integrate. It uses precisely the same interface as SATA so you can connect either type to a SAS controller. It's clear that SAS is the favoured interface with only two review systems supporting SATA. The choice in disk drive form factors is also changing as the smaller 2.5in. hard disks are making a big impact on rack server design. With more drives available in the same space your RAID options increase and the reduced space requirements provide more leeway in internal design as the storage arrangement doesn't have the same impact on air flow as conventional 3.5in. hard disks.

Whatever your business requirements are it's clear that the latest 1U rack servers have more than enough horsepower to handle current and future demand so read on to see which vendor has the best combination of power and capacity to satisfy your needs.

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.