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Lenovo ThinkSystem SR550 review

Perfectly poised for SMEs, the ThinkSystem SR550 offers a great value Xeon Scalable server solution with quality management tools

Price
£1,858
  • Great value; Outstanding management console; Highly scalable
  • Limited to 125W TDP, 20-core processors; Base configurations only include one PCIe slot

Lenovo revealed its intent on the server market last year with one of the biggest product launches in its history. The ThinkSystem family introduces twelve new servers with the SR550 on review representing Lenovo's opening gambit on the cost-conscious SME sector.

Along with a completely revamped hardware design and support for Xeon Scalable CPUs, Lenovo has radically improved its server management offerings. You'll see this on first power up as the SR550 presented us with the new XClarity Controller (XCC) interface on its dedicated management port.

The XClarity Provisioning Manager handles OS deployment with aplomb. We selected its assisted installation routine during boot up and it helped get a RAID array created and Windows Server 2016 loaded inside 30 minutes.

The XCC remote web interface presents a slick home page offering a wealth of information about system health and critical components. It provides quick access to remote control and presents coloured graphs showing utilization and system wide power usage.

Along with hardware inventory, it provides a complete breakdown of component utilization, fan and voltage status plus temperatures. RAID controllers can be directly configured from the XCC interface which also provides firmware update tools and options to set access security.

We run Lenovo's XClarity Administrator 1.4 in our lab as a Hyper-V host and after adding the SR550 to its console, we could remotely monitor it, use its email alerting services and employ its image library for firmware updates and OS deployments. There's more: we used Lenovo's free XClarity Mobile iOS app on our iPad to remotely access the Administrator host and monitor our server on the move.

The SR550 is solidly constructed and offers plenty of storage options with support for up to 12 LFF or 16 SFF drives. Our review system was supplied with 8 LFF drive bays plus the operator panel and the price includes two 1TB 'simple-swap' (cold-swap) SATA hard disks.

RAID options start with the embedded Intel RSTe controller which supports up to 8 SATA drives plus striped, mirrored and RAID5 arrays. Lenovo offers an optional RAID 530-8i adapter which introduces SAS3 support, while the 930-8i and 930-16i add RAID6 and 2GB of cache memory.

The review system includes an entry-level 6-core 1.7GHz Xeon Bronze 3104 and has a second CPU socket ready for future upgrades. Thermal design limits the SR550 to CPUs with a maximum 125W TDP and 20 physical cores.

This is unlikely to trouble its target market, as it supports all Bronze and Silver models plus a wide range of Gold CPUs. The price includes 16GB of TruDDR4 memory and with both CPU sockets occupied, you can use the 12 DIMM slots to expand this to 384GB of RDIMM or 768GB of LRDIMM memory.

Our system had a single 750W Platinum PSU which can be augmented with a second for hot-plug redundancy and Lenovo also offers 550W Platinum and 750W Titanium versions. The low 85W TDP of the Bronze CPU was reflected in our power tests with the server drawing 57W in idle and peaking at a mere 70W under extreme load.

Only a single PCI-Express slot is available in base systems but adding two optional risers increases the slot count to six. You get dual Gigabit plus a dedicated XCC Gigabit port and the server supports Lenovo's LOM adapters with a choice of dual Gigabit or dual 10GbE copper or SFP+ fibre ports.

The ThinkSystem SR550 offers SMBs an affordable entry point into the world of Xeon Scalable processing. Its flexible design allows you to start small and easily expand to cope with increased workloads while Lenovo's new server management solutions won't be bettered.

Verdict

The ThinkSystem SR550 offers SMBs an affordable entry point into the world of Xeon Scalable processing. Its flexible design allows you to start small and easily expand to cope with increased workloads while Lenovo's new server management solutions won't be bettered.

2U rack chassis;
1.7GHz Xeon Bronze 3104 (max 2);
16GB 2,667MHz TruDDR4 (max 768GB with LRDIMMs);
Intel C622;
Intel RSTe;
Supports RAID0, 1, 5, 10;
2 x 1TB SATA simple-swap drives (max 12 LFF/16 SFF);
1 x PCI-E 3.0 (max 6);
2 x Gigabit;
XCC Enterprise with 1GbE;
750W hot-plug PSU (max 2);
3yrs on-site NBD warranty;
Power 57W idle, 70W peak

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