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EXCLUSIVE: IBM System x3850 M2

Server virtualisation is a hot topic these days and the System x3850 M2 is IBM’s multi-VM capable one-box solution. We see how it stacks up.

Moving on to the hardware itself and it's clear the x3850 M2 provides a very solid foundation for your VM environment with the system on review delivering a very tasty specification. The server came with a quartet of quad-core 2.4GHz Xeon MP processors teamed up with a total of 16GB of DDR2 memory split equally across four riser cards. Memory features are extensive as you have on-line sparing and mirroring whilst IBM's ProteXion feature provides memory hot-sparing enabling the server to route data around a failed memory chip.

At the front you have four hot-swap drive bays with the review system supplied with four 73GB SAS SFF hard disks and configured via the embedded ServeRAID controller as a dual drive redundant RAID-6 array. These are where your VMs are stored so if you need to use the ESXi recovery CD-ROM you won't lose them in the process as this only reinstates the USB flash device.

There's plenty of room for expansion as the server offers seven PCI-e slots, two of which are the hot-swap variety. Included in the price is an extra dual-port Gigabit network card so you have plenty of port options for presenting VMs to your network. These were displayed in the VI client interface enabling us to create extra virtual switches and assign VMs to different subnets and VLANs if required. Even better is the pair of QLogic 4Gbps FC adapters as these can be used to link the server to a SAN enabling storage options for your VMs to be increased massively.

Remote server management is on the menu as the price includes IBM's RSA (remote server adapter) II, which offers dedicated monitor and Fast Ethernet ports. This provides remote browser access to the server regardless of its status so you can power the server up and down, reset it, run remote firmware updates and monitor critical components. Full remote control is provided as standard so you can use this to access the ESXi console remotely.

As a server virtualisation platform, the System x3850 M2 has a lot going for it as it delivers an excellent hardware specification that looks quite capable of supporting a large number of VMs. IBM's solution enables you to do much more with your hardware by consolidating services onto fewer physical servers and this will undoubtedly have an positive impact on running costs and power requirements.

Verdict: The x3850 M2 is a fine example of why server virtualisation is becoming ever more popular. This 4U rack system has enough grunt to handle a large number of VMs enabling you to maximise data centre rack and floor space and increase your server count on demand. The basic ESXi Embedded hypervisor may be short on features but it provides enough to get you out of the starting blocks and does support all VMware's enterprise level options.

Verdict

The x3850 M2 is a fine example of why server virtualisation is becoming ever more popular. This 4U rack system has enough grunt to handle a large number of VMs enabling you to maximise data centre rack and floor space and increase your server count on demand. The basic ESXi Embedded hypervisor may be short on features but it provides enough to get you out of the starting blocks and does support all VMware’s enterprise level options.

Chassis: 4U rack chassis

CPU: 4 x 2.4GHz Xeon MP E7330

Memory: 16GB 667MHz DDR2 expandable to 128GB

Storage: 4GB USB flash drive; 4 x 73.4GB IBM 10K SFF SAS hard disks

RAID: IBM ServeRAID-MR10k SAS with 256MB cache and BBU

Expansion: 7 x PCI-e x8 slots (2 x hot-swap)

Network: 4 x Gigabit Ethernet

Management: Remote Supervisor Adapter II Slimline

Power: 2 x 1440W hot-swap supplies

OS: VMware ESXi Embedded preinstalled

Other: 2 x QLogic QLA2460 4Gbps FC cards

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