IBM System x3350

The x3350 offers a cost effective alternative to dual socket 1U rack servers and remote management gets a big boost with IBM’s new Systems Director.

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 enables systems other than IBMs to be fully managed. Alternatively, you can use the core services agent, which supports a reduced set of management tasks but has a lighter footprint.

All menus are easily accessed from the left side bar where you can run regular network discoveries, collect inventory data and view the status of selected systems. Virtual servers are now supported and a range of remote access features is provided so you can run file transfers and fire up remote control sessions using RDP or RealVNC.

Power management also gets a boost as the older PowerExecutive utility gets its marching orders and is replaced with the new Active Energy Manager plug-in for Systems Director. The x3350 doesn't support the power capping and saving features but the power monitoring enables you to view trend graphs of power usage and system temperatures over time.

The power management tools interact with the server's embedded baseboard management controller, which is also used by the Systems Director to remotely power the server on and off or restart it. The x3350 also has room for IBM's optional Remote Supervisor Adapter SlimLine II card, which offers remote browser access to the server and provides a similar feature set to HP's embedded iLO2 controller.

Businesses looking to upgrade older dual socket servers will find the x3350 a cost-effective alternative that's low on power but big on performance. Storage features and general redundancy are good and as the previous version was looking very dated the new systems management software is a very timely addition.

Verdict

The x3350 offers a good specification for the price making it a sound candidate as a replacement for dual socket rack servers. Plenty of component redundancy and storage features are included and the new Systems Director software is a vast improvement on its predecessor.

Chassis: 1U rack

CPU: 3GHz Xeon X3370

Memory: 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 SDRAM expandable to 8GB

Storage: 4 x 73.4GB IBM 10k SAS SFF hard disks in hot-swap carriers

RAID: IBM ServeRAID-MR10i SAS/SATA PCI-e card

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 50, 6, 60

Expansion: 2 x PCI-e 8X

Network: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet

Power: 2 x 450W hot-plug supplies

Management: Embedded IPMI 2.0 BMC

Software: IBM ServerGuide 8.1, Systems Director 6.1

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