Sun Microsystems Sun Fire X4140 review
The Sun Fire X4140 is one classy 1U rack server that has more of everything than the competition and is very competitively priced
Review Date: 4 Mar 2009
Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell
Price when reviewed: £3,500 (£4,025 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
If Sun Microsystems wants to make any significant headway with its worldwide server sales it has to take on the likes of Dell and HP at the lower end of this market. That means delivering a solid range of standard Intel and AMD based rack and pedestal systems at affordable prices and with a good range of features. In this exclusive review we take a look at the new Sun Fire X4140 rack server and see whether it has what it takes to take them on.
This 1U system certainly delivers a good specification for the price as this includes AMD's latest quad-core 'Shanghai' Opterons. Sun is only the second server vendor to supply these processors to us so far - the first being Boston with its remarkable 3000GP. We've noticed Dell and HP being very slow to respond to requests for server review samples with these new processors.
The smaller 2.5in. SFF hard disks are rapidly becoming the drive of choice for low profile rack servers and the X4140 has room for no less than eight across its front panel. HP's ProLiant DL365 G5 only has room for six internal SFF drives whilst Dell's PowerEdge SC1435 can't manage more than a pair of 3.5in. drives.
RAID is firmly in the picture as the system comes with a well specified controller mounted in one of its three PCI-Express slots. Based on Adaptec's latest RAID 5805 adapter, it has a pair of 4-channel internal SAS/SATA ports both wired directly to the drive backplane. It's big on performance as it has a 1.2GHz dual-core ROC (RAID on Chip) supported by 256MB of DDR2 cache memory. It supports plenty of array types right up to RAID-6 and -60 and you also get the battery backup pack included.
The lid pops off easily and underneath lies a well designed interior that's easily up with HP, IBM and Dell. The two 2.7GHz quad-core Opterons are located at the front of the motherboard and use large copper passive heatsinks. They're flanked on each side by banks of eight DIMM sockets. The review system included pairs of 2GB DDR2 modules for each processor and this can be upgraded to a whopping 128GB.
The X4140 seems to have more of everything as you get three, easily accessible PCI-e slots at the rear and the price includes both 650W redundant power supplies. Even the network port count is better than the rest as the server sports a quad of embedded Gigabit ports - virtually all other 1U racks only have two.
Cooling gets some serious attention as the system uses fourteen dual rotor fans. These are mounted as pairs in easily removable hot-swap carriers and an extra flap in the lid allows them to be swapped out without taking the server offline. With this many fans we expected the X4140 to be extremely noisy but were pleasantly surprised to find after power up they settled down to a gentle hum and were no louder than IBM's single socket System x3350.
The X4140 performed well in our power tests as with both supplies linked up to an in-line power meter we saw it drawing only 16W in standby - that's 14W less than HP's quad-core Xeon based ProLiant DL360 G5. With Windows Server 2003 R2 pottering along in idle we saw an average draw of 200W and with SiSoft Sandra pummelling all eight cores this rose to only 305W - both lower than the DL360.
Remote server management is on the cards as the motherboard offers Sun's embedded ILOM (integrated lights out management) chip which uses a dedicated Fast Ethernet port at the rear. This provides full KVM-over-IP services allowing the server to be controlled regardless of its condition - as long as you have power you have access.
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