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Lenovo ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server review: A powerful server package for small spaces

Lenovo's miniscule ThinkEdge SE450 delivers plenty of processing power to the outer limits

The Lenovo ThinkEdge from the front
Price
£9,141 exc VAT
  • Super-short chassis
  • Xeon Scalable Gen 3 support
  • Very expandable
  • Fans could be quieter

The amount of data being generated at the network edge is increasing so rapidly that it makes more sense for enterprises to move servers out there as well so they can process it locally instead of funnelling it all back to the data centre. Lenovo moved into edge computing a couple of years ago and its latest ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server aims to put some serious processing power in the smallest of spaces.

It's powerful enough to satisfy a wide range of edge applications as this 2U rack server supports a Xeon Scalable Gen 3 CPU. It has the thermal capacity to handle 205W TDP CPUs so it can be specified with a core-heavy Platinum model if required.

The SE450 is designed for harsh environments as the chassis is shock and vibration resistant with the optional lockable security bezel incorporating a dust filter. Standard models are cleared for continuous operations in ambient temperatures of between 5 and 45 degrees C while the NEBS Level-3 and ETSI compliant models can handle extremes of -5 and 55 degrees C for up to 96 hours.

Even better, the standard chassis measures a mere 300mm deep allowing it to go into spaces where standard rack servers can't. This model supports four half-length (HL), full-width (FW) expansion cards with another version accepting four FL cards and increasing depth slightly to 360mm.

Lenovo ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server review: Design and features

In common with most edge servers, the SE450 employs a reverse system design with all expansion slots, PSU sockets and network ports accessible from the front. System cooling is handled by six dual-rotor, hot-plug fans at the rear which we found to be a little on the noisy side with sound levels at one metre in front measured at around 55dB.

Inside Lenovo's ThinkEdge server

For such a small chassis, Lenovo has done a fine design job with the CPU socket situated in the centre, topped off by a passive heatsink and flanked on each side by five DIMM slots. Our system came with a generous 512GB of TruDDR4 memory which can be boosted to a healthy 1TB and the server also supports Intel Optane Persistent Memory (PMEM) 200 modules.

On each side are expansion riser cards both with two PCI-E Gen 4 16x slots. Along with a good range of Gigabit, 10GbE, 25GbE and 100GbE network cards, you can fit up to four single-width Nvidia A2 GPU cards in the 300m chassis and two double-width Nvidia A30 cards in the 360mm deep version.

A vertical OCP 3 module sits to the far left and our server was supplied with an Intel X710-T2L dual 10GbE adapter. Next to this, you can fit an optional WLAN module and bring secure Wi-Fi 6 connectivity into play.

Lenovo ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server review: Storage options

The SE450 offers a good range of storage features with an internal tray at the front supporting up to four 7mm or two 15mm devices and these can be SATA or NVMe models. Some patience is required when fitting drives in the tray due to the limited amount of access space.

If you're prepared to lose the right-hand expansion riser, you can replace it with a dual-drive SFF hot-swap bay which also handles SATA and NVMe drives. This is only available with preconfigured and CTO (configure to order) models and not as a field upgrade. 

In fact, the server supports a total of six SATA and four NVMe devices so you can still use the drive tray, have a mix of storage types and use the on-board Intel VROC for software-managed RAID arrays. SAS3 support is also a possibility with the SE450 supporting Lenovo's ThinkSystem RAID 5350-8i RAID card and its basic 4350-81 HBA.

The server also has room for a dual slot M.2 SSD module which is tucked away next to the PSU bay, supports SATA or NVMe SSDs and can use the Intel VROC chip for creating a mirrored RAID array. Choose the ThinkEdge SE450 with Security Pack model and any physical interference such as opening the lid, can be linked with actions including automatic power down or full disk encryption.

Lenovo ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server review: Remote management

The SE450 is endowed with the same full-strength XClarity Controller (XCC) and dedicated Gigabit port as all other ThinkSystem servers which can be accessed at boot up where it presents a provisioning manager. The XCC Standard version provides features such as remote power controls, sensor monitoring and inventory while the Advanced upgrade adds remote KVM, virtual media services, remote OS deployment and real-time performance graphs.

Lenovo's ThinkEdge user interface

The provisioning manager can be used to configure the server, create RAID arrays and deploy an OS. We used the XCC remote console to mount a virtual Windows Server 2022 ISO and chose the 'Effortless Install' option which lived up to its name by loading the OS in 45 minutes with no further intervention required from us.

Centralised remote management is provided by Lenovo's XClarity Administrator which we run in the lab as a VMware VM. After adding the SE450 to its console, we could remotely monitor it, employ the image library for firmware updates plus OS deployments and access the Administrator host from the XClarity Mobile iOS app to remotely access the Administrator host and monitor our server from an iPad.

Lenovo ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server review: Verdict

The ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server looks good value as a starting price of around £2,920 gets you the 300mm chassis filled with a 10-core 2.3GHz Xeon Scalable Silver 4310T, 16GB of TruDDR4 and two 240GB SATA SSDs. Our review system does cost about £9,141 but this delivers a hugely more powerful package clearly capable of handling demanding edge related workloads.

The SE450 impresses with design too, as it packs a remarkable amount of hardware into a chassis that's barely a foot deep. This makes it highly versatile as it can deliver a powerful processing package in places where normal servers simply aren't practical.

Lenovo ThinkEdge SE450 Edge Server specifications 

Chassis

2U 300mm deep rackmount

CPU

24-core 2.1GHz Intel Xeon Scalable Gold 6338T

Memory

512GB 3,200MHz TruDDR4 RDIMM (max 1TB)

Storage

2 x 240GB SATA SFF SSDs (max 6)

RAID

Intel VROC software managed

Network

Intel X710-T2L dual 10GbE OCP 3

Expansion

4 x PCI-E Gen 4 16x

Power

2 x 1100W hot-plug Platinum PSUs

Management

XClarity Controller, XClarity Administrator

Warranty

3Yr on-site NBD

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