Xeon is believing: 4 servers tested

 Xeon servers  Server reviews:  Dell PowerEdge...

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT

There's no such thing as an average server, but for just about all your everyday computing needs one of these Intel Xeon-based servers is likely to do the trick.



A month ago we published a review on high-end servers. In that review we looked at an Ipex quad Itanium II based server, a quad AMD 846 Opteron server, a Sun V240 dual UltraSPARC server and a Apple dual G5 Power Mac. Each of these were running different operating systems.

However, Intel has dominated the traditional Microsoft Windows-based server market over recent years with various incarnations of its Xeon processors.

In this review, we take a look at the current crop of Intel Xeon-based servers running different flavours of Microsoft 2003 Server. We invited Dell, Hallmark, HP, and XENON to submit these servers. From the wide range of differing specifications we received, there is sure to be one to suit your target application--from the relatively diminutive 2U rackmount chassis with four processors from HP through to the entry level dual-processor Hallmark pedestal chassis, up to the 4U rackmount XENON power machine with four processors and hot plug PCI-X cards.

Things to look for in a server

  • Evaluate your intended application to ensure you are choosing the right scale/level of server for your company. There is simply no point in going over the top or underspending when rolling out servers.
  • Scalability is important if you are intending on expanding your server needs in the coming months/years. So perhaps look for a quad-capable server currently configured with two processors. This will allow you to add two more processors and more memory later instead of replacing the whole machine prematurely.
  • For ROI, make a balanced decision between application and costs, ensure that you are getting good return on investment by not tying up all your capital in assets that are not providing quantifiable returns. Keep in mind the previous two points when making this decision.
  • Performance vs price. Again the more power for less money means that the server will technically last longer and perform the application better at a cheaper cost than poorer performing more expen­-sive machines.

However don't compromise on quality of build/components or service. There is no point buying a machine that is only up 80 percent of the time even if it is only half the cost of a system that is up 99 percent of the time.

Dell PowerEdge 6600

Dell PowerEdge 6600
T&B Editor's choice
When the box arrived from the courier, it had the usual warnings that it was heavy. That was an understatement. This carton, while relatively small in size when compared with some of the bulkier equipment that the Test Lab evaluates, was amazingly hard to shift. Once opened, the reason for this weight became apparent, the Dell chassis was 7RU.

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT

After we had managed to wrangle the server out of the box, we could inspect it closer. It comes with a full array of twelve removable hard disk drive cages along the bottom of the machine and a quad-CPU module at the top.

There were four 1.6GHz Xeon CPUs in the test machine that we were supplied, however Dell is now offering 2.0GHz at the same price.

Along with the dozen HDD bays at the front of the machine there is also a CD-ROM drive and floppy drive unit, and an illuminated power button and liquid crystal display.

The rear has a housing for the redundant power supply which has three power modules. When the lockable top cover at the rear is lifted there is a whole bank of ten PCI-X hot plug slots available as well as one normal PCI slot. Under the lid are also six large removable fans assisting with the airflow. Getting to this stage you may have realised that Dell means business with this server.

This was the only server supplied in this review that came pre-installed with Microsoft Windows 2000 Server.

Overall this is a very utilitarian server which is designed and constructed for one purpose only, to serve data. With an amazing drive array combined with the four Intel Xeon processors and hotplug PCI-X expansion available until the cows come home, this would definitely have to be one of the most scalable and integrated power serving solutions we have seen in this lab to date. Ten out of ten for Dell putting all these eggs in this box. For those potential customers who need such a standalone server then the Dell PowerEdge 6600 should certainly be on your shortlist.

Product Dell PowerEdge 6650
Price $24,900
Vendor Dell
Phone 1300 303 263
Web www.dell.com.au
 
Interoperability
Runs a wide variety of operating systems.
Futureproofing
½
Plenty of expansion potential, plus three redundant power supplies. Provided you can handle the sheer size, this machine has it all.
ROI
½
Was tested with 1.6GHz processors, now available at the same price with 2.0GHz processors. Moderately priced system considering the performance.
Service
3-year parts and labour warranty.
Rating

Hallmark Duad-BR

Hallmark Duad-BR
The Hallmark was shipped to us in a pedestal chassis, but is also available as rackmount. The chassis itself is very robust with plenty of engineering obviously gone into it; this machine certainly could not be considered a beefed-up desktop PC, it is a true server through and through. There is one point of weakness however in that this server only has a single power supply. The mainboard also is only dual-Xeon capable where the other servers in this review are all quad. These factors however are offset by the large price difference between the other servers in this review.

The mainboard itself is a standard Intel manufactured unit (SE7501BR2) running in conjunction with an Adaptec RAID card (2100S). The utilities and diagnostics available on the bundled Adaptec boot disc are very impressive, in fact as part of our testing we re-formatted all the systems in this review, reconfigured their RAID arrays, and installed Windows 2000 Advanced Server to ensure each platform was tested running in similar configurations. This process was made very simple and straightforward with this Adaptec utility.

The rear of the unit has a large fan, two smaller ones and the power supply fan. With all these fans the machine still ran relatively quiet for a server. Each side of the machine had ventilation grilles machined into the casing towards the front.

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT

The front of the machine has a plastic door that is lockable. There are five removable drive bays.

Internally the machine was neatly constructed, certainly no cables seemed to be interfering with other devices, however more attention could have been paid to the cable routing, and there seemed to be an excessive use of nylon cable ties, making it difficult for technicians to remove/replace or use spare power connectors out in the field should the need ever arise. It would be much better to see the reusable velcro cable ties used, particularly on cables that may need to be unplugged relatively frequently. As for devices interfering with each other, the rear of the HDD drive array seemed to come very close to the lower CPU's fan unit, virtually obstructing the CPU fan on the heatsink. This matter seems that it could have been better addressed by moving the drive array to the bottom of the 5.25in bays. There were four PCI-X slots in total, with only one used (Adaptec RAID card), and two standard PCI slots free. There were also two free memory slots available.

The machine was supplied pre-installed with Windows 2003 standard server and two CPUs installed.

Overall, the Hallmark Duad server is a entry-level dual Xeon server at a good price, but the lack of power supply redundancy is something to be concerned with unless the intended application is for server clustering which is definitely gaining popularity with the uptake of more Linux deployments and even Citrix server farms. The inclusion of the Adaptec RAID card and drive array as well are very good and certainly should ensure the data's safety. Note that this is not a valid excuse for failing to keep adequate regular data backups, of course.

Product Hallmark Duad BR
Price $7698.90
Vendor Hallmark
Phone 03 9540 8555
Web www.hallmark.com.au
 
Interoperability
Runs a wide variety of operating systems, but limited space for expansion cards.
Futureproofing
Mainboard only supports two processors, not suitable if you need quad capability.
ROI
½
A good deal as long as you only need two processors; shows the difference in base price between dual and quad processor machines.
Service
3-year parts and labour warranty.
Rating

HP ProLiant DL560

HP ProLiant DL560
T&B Editor's choice
A very well-engineered compact 2RU rackmount chassis houses the components for the HP server, including four Xeon CPUs--that's right, four Intel Xeons in a 2U chassis. There is a redundant power supply, a RAID controller, but only enough room for two hard disk drive units in the machine, which are accessed by removable bays on the front of the server.

Internally as with all HP/Compaq servers we have seen in the past, the engineering, design and construction is faultless. It is truly the little things that these servers include that set them apart from the others, such as the integrated ILO capability, the 21 internal LED indicators that signal the engineer directly to the component(s) that are not functioning as they should, the HP SmartStart OS assisted support tools CD for server setup, right down to the inclusion of a small nylon bracket with an allen key on the rear panel to aid technicians in removing the power supplies.

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT

There are three PCI-X ports inside this unit with one of them occupied by the RAID card. There are six memory slots available, four of which were occupied by 1GB modules in the server we tested.

The server was shipped to us without any operating system, however with the SmartStart CD we easily installed Windows 2003 Server and then Windows 2000 Advanced Server.

Just about the only possible issue/limitation we could find with this machine was the fact that it only has two drive bays, however in this day and age of direct attached and network attached storage this is probably a moot point.

Overall, this is a very well executed compact powerful server. Perfect for clustering or running those large storage arrays.

Product HP Proliant DL560
Price $17,795
Vendor HP
Phone 13 13 47
Web www.hp.com.au
 
Interoperability
Runs a wide variety of operating systems, but limited space for expansion cards.
Futureproofing
½
2U chassis is perfect for those needing many powerful CPUs in a small area but may not assist those needing expansion capabilities.
ROI
½
Very good price for a great performer.
Service
3-year parts and labour warranty.
Rating
½

XENON in_FOURCE SHR

XENON in_FOURCE SHR
A very robust 4RU chassis was the casing of choice for the XENON and, boy, was this a machine to be reckoned with. It featured four Intel Xeon processors, 4GB RAM, an Adpatec 2100S with a five-drive array, and redundant power supplies. The whole front panel removes to expose the removable hotswap redundant power supply units; the machine we were supplied for testing had two power units installed and there is also even space for a third hot spare.

At the time of writing, XENON was awaiting the confirmation from Intel of this server's validation and by the time you read this it should be completed.

Internally, the layout and assembly of the system was very well executed. There is a clear plastic protective cover over the mainboard and also full length plastic protectors between each of the hotplug PCI-X slots, this certainly would aid in the reduction of inadvertent -shorts" that may be caused by a jittery engineer who has been assigned the task of having to replace a faulty card in a live server . . . talk about picking the short straw.

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT

The Intel mainboard is a SRSH4 unit and supports four hotplug PCI-X cards. There are also a further two PCI-X slots available that are not hot-swappable, as well as two standard PCI slots. Next to all these expansion bays lives the removable memory card that can take up to 12 memory modules. The four CPUs are then housed just next to this under a bright blue airflow baffle which aids in their cooling/heat dissipation. Between all this equipment and the front of the chassis are six large hot swap fans, which also no doubt assist with the heat management when racked up in an enclosed space.

This server was shipped to us with Windows Enterprise Server 2003 pre-installed. It also shipped with a nifty 250GB Maxtor external USB drive unit which allows snapshots and backups to be made of the data on the fly. This is a neat insurance policy for paranoid administrators out there who are concerned that their users may inadvertently hit the wrong key and delete half the database.

Overall the XENON server, while certainly not the cheapest solution in this review, is still a very powerful, redundant, and robust server. It's certainly worthy of further investigation and evaluation by potential customers.

Product XENON in_FOURCE SHR
Price $47,950
Vendor XENON
Phone 03 9549 1111
Web www.xenon.com.au
 
Interoperability
½
Runs a wide variety of operating systems.
Futureproofing
A 4U chassis with a fair amount of room for drive and card expansion.
ROI
If you’re seeking flat-out performance, this is a very good deal.
Service
Two-year onsite warranty with four-hour response.
Rating

Specifications

Model Tested Dell PowerEdge 6650 Hallmark Duad BR
Vendor Dell Hallmark
Web www.dell.com.au www.hallmark.com.au
Phone 1300 303 263 03 9540 8555
Price range (min. config to max. config) $9900-$54,900 $3239.50-$15,000+
Price as tested $24,900 (tested with 1.6Ghz CPUs; now available with 2.0Ghz CPU's at same price) $7698.90
Standard warranty 3 years 3 years
Extended warranty availability Up to 5 years, 24 x 7 with 2 hour response 3 years with 4 hour response
Chassis height (xRUs) 7U 5U
CPU (min/max speed) Intel Xeon MP 2.0/2.8GHz Intel Xeon 2.4/3.06GHz
CPU internal cache (min/max) 1MB/2MB 512KB/1MB
CPUs supported (min/max) 1/4 1/2
Memory (min/max) 1GB/32GB 512MB/8GB
Memory type ECC SDRAM Registered ECC DDR
HDD capacity (min/max) 18GB-1.7TB 36GB-1.4TB
HDD interface SCSI SCSI U320
HDD controller RAID capable Yes Yes
Hot Swap HDD bays Yes Yes
Network ports 2x 10/100/1000 1 x 10/100/1000, 1 x 10/100
USB, Serial, Parallel, Firewire, PS/2 2, 1, 0, 0, 2 5, 2, 1, 0, 2
Mainboard Chipset ServerWorks GC-HE Intel E7501
Mainboard expansion slots 10x hot-plug PCI-X (64-bit, 100MHz), 1x hot-plug PCI (32-bit, 33MHz) 4 x PCI-X, 2 x PCI
Power Supply (watts) 3x 600W hot-plug power supplies 450W



Specifications
HP Proliant DL560 XENON in_FOURCE SHR
HP XENON
www.hp.com.au www.xenon.com.au
13 13 47 03 9549 1111
$11,695-$53,995 $12,950-$47,950
$17,795 (tested with superseeded 1.5Ghz CPU's) $47,950
3 years 2 year (4-hour response during business hours)
24 x 7 with 4 hour response 3 years, 24 x 7
2U 4U
Intel Xeon MP 2.0/2.8GHz Intel Xeon MP 2.0/2.8 Ghz
1MB/2MB 1MB/2MB
1/4 1/4
1GB/12GB 1GB/24GB
Registered ECC DDR ECC DDR
0-292GB 36GB-1.4TB
SCSI U320 SCSI U320
Yes Yes
Yes Yes
2 x 10/100/1000 2x 10/100/1000, 1x 10/100
2, 1, 1, 0, 2 3, 2, 1, 0, 2
Serverworks GC-LE ServerWorks GC-HE
3 x PCI-X (64-bit; 2x 100Mhz, 1x 133Mhz) 6x PCI-X (64-bit, 100MHz), 2x PCI (32-bit, 33MHz)
550W hot plug power supply 3 x 430W PFC power supplies

Test bench

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT
Interoperability
Will the server support a good variety of operating systems, applications, and connections?

Futureproofing
Does the server provide you with room to expand and have redundant or swappable components?

ROI
The age-old comparison of price, performance, and features.

Service
What warranties and service contracts are available? Can you get prompt service at a reasonable price?

How we tested
We ran Ziff-Davis Web Bench on these Xeon based servers. Unfortunately with the relatively new Microsoft 2003 Server Operating system that some of the units were pre-installed with there were a few minor glitches and we could not get a reliable result from the testing. Therefore we made the decision to re-format each of the machines and install 2000 Advanced Server.

Also we initially had the intention to run Web Bench out of interest to see how the different Xeon machines stacked up against the -next generation" of machines that we tested in the December edition of the magazine (Opteron, Itanium, UltraSparc & G5). However, due to the fact that between these two series of tests we needed to change the test rig client machines quite dramatically, and amongst other things some of these Xeons had been used to act as clients to test the other servers as featured in the December review. And now these Xeons were the target machines so we could not keep them in the rig, therefore the scores unfortunately will not be comparable.

The test rig comprised of a dedicated controller system, the target server on test, a Dell Gigabit switch and the remaining network ports populated with client systems, each of which is capable of running multiple virtual clients.

Test Results

The Dell blitzed the field with a maximum of 1923 simultaneous requests per second (RPS) on the 60-client load. The Hallmark while only a dual CPU configured machine showed a decent result of 1772 RPS at the 60-client load. The HP and Xenon were very close to each other scoring around the 1795/6 RPS with 60-clients. With the HP very slightly edging out the Xenon overall though.

As you can see from the results achieved HTTP requests are not very CPU intensive, the dual CPU machine was almost as quick as some of the quad boxes, the performance differences are mainly down to system memory, disk/network I/O and incidental performance tweaks by the manufacturers. These machines are all designed to do much more than simple Web serving, however the results of this test give a good comparison of the underlying system performance regardless of the number/speed of the processor and goes to show that MHz are not necessarily the be all and end all to server performance. And it also goes to show that servers should be matched with applications and forecasted server loads.

Test results

Test results

Sample scenario

Company: Joanne's Pies. This business wants to install some mid-level servers for database and e-mail use.

Approximate budget: Open.

Requires: Six servers capable of supporting up to four processors, with two processors installed.

Concerns: With the expected growth over the next few years, the company wants the option to install additional processors and memory. With storage and all other aspects, redundancy will be very highly regarded.

Best solution: Choosing the best server comes down to a process of elimination. The Hallmark can only fit two processors, while the HP's 2U chassis provides for very limited expansion making it more suited to a high-capacity data centre. Given the Dell's vast size and enormous expansion capability, which is probably too much for this particular scenario, that leaves the XENON as the perfect fit.

Editor's choice

T&B Editor's choice
Dell PowerEdge 6650 and HP Proliant DL560

The HP houses four Xeon CPUs in a tiny 2U chassis and still supports two SCSI drives and redundant power supplies. The HP would be perfectly suited for a SAN environment with the storage external from the servers, or a data centre environment where the monthly cost is based on a per unit of rack space. The Dell--on the other end of the scale--also has four CPUs, as well as a full hotswap drive array and plenty of internal expansionno wonder it's a gargantuan 7U in height. This gives it overall great expansion capabilities.

Final Words

There is surely a Xeon-based system in this review that would suit most corporate server applications and budgets. A distinct move has now been made away from dedicated server internal storage towards support for external storage arrays. This is particularly evident in the very powerful and very small 2U rackmount based quad Xeon system that HP supplied, enabling you to fit twice as many CPUs in the same rack space as that occupied by either the Hallmark or the XENON.

About RMIT IT Test Labs

RMIT IT Test Labs

 Xeon servers

 Server reviews:
 Dell PowerEdge 6600
 Hallmark Duad-BR
 HP ProLiant DL560
 XENON in_FOURCE SHR

 Specifications
 How we tested
 Test results
 Sample scenario
 Editor's choice
 Final words
 About RMIT
RMIT IT Test Labs is an independent testing institution based in Melbourne, Victoria, performing IT product testing for clients such as IBM, Coles-Myer, and a wide variety of government bodies. In the Labs' testing for T&B, they are in direct contact with the clients supplying products and the magazine is responsible for the full cost of the testing. The findings are the Labs' own--only the specifications of the products to be tested are provided by the magazine. For more information on RMIT, please contact the Lab Manager, Steven Turvey.

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