Sun Microsystems Sun Fire X4275 storage server review

The new Sun Fire X4275 supports the latest Intel Xeon 5500 processors and has storage duties as a high priority but can it match HP for value and features?

EXCLUSIVE: It may have been acquired by Oracle earlier this year but it's still business as usual in Sun Microsystems' server division. In this exclusive review we take a close look at its new Sun Fire X4275, which has a sharp focus on storage-hungry applications such as multimedia, data warehousing and video surveillance.

The X4275 is up against some tough competition as you have HP's ProLiant DL380 G6 and Dell's new PowerEdge R710 in the same arena and both offer an interesting range of features. With a dozen 3.5in SAS/SATA hot-swap hard disk bays at the front, the X4275 is certainly big on storage capacity as it can serve up 12TB now and 24TB with the soon-to-be-launched 2TB SATA drives.

Dell and HP have gone down the SFF drive route as the DL380 supports up to 16 of these whilst the R710 can handle just eight. The X4275 doesn't support SFF drives so if you want them in your Sun server then go for the X4270 which can handle up to 16.

The lid has a small, hinged section at the front, which provides easy access to the bank of 12 hot-swap fans allowing them to be replaced without turning the server off. The main part of the lid is released with a small tab under the front section but be careful as sliding this back initiates an immediate server shutdown even with the OS running.

Underneath this you'll find a very tidy interior that is designed to make the most of the internal real estate. The pair of 2.53GHz E5540 Xeons included in the price are positioned next to each other at the front of the motherboard and topped off with chunky passive heatsinks. Each has a dedicated bank of nine DIMM sockets to one side and the review system was supplied with a total of 12GB of 1066MHz DDR3 memory.

Sun has the virtualisation angle covered as the motherboard offers an internal USB port and a CompactFlash card slot for booting an embedded hypervisor. However, both Dell and HP have gone a step further as their servers offer an embedded SD memory card slot instead. The X4275 certainly has room to grow with demand as it has three riser cards at the back offering a total of six PCI-Express 2.0 slots.

One of the PCI-e slots is occupied by a RAID controller, which is based on Adaptec's RAID 5805 adapter. It offers a pair of 4-channel SAS/SATA ports, has a 1.2GHz dual-core ROC (RAID on Chip) plus 256MB of DDR2 cache memory and the battery backup pack as well.

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