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Sun Microsystems Sun Fire X4440 review

Verdict

The one and only 2U quad Opteron 8300 server on the market delivers a superb blend of features and value that's more than a match for the competition

Review Date: 31 Mar 2009

Reviewed By: Dave Mitchell

Price when reviewed: £9,180 (£10,557 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
6 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
5 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Unlike much of the competition, Sun Microsystems has been forging ahead with delivery of AMD's latest quad core Opteron and now offers a solid range of rack servers equipped with these processors. Last month we brought you an exclusive review of the Sun Fire X4140 1U server and now we deliver another exclusive - this time of the larger Sun Fire X4440.

The X4140 impressed us, but the X4440 is the one we've really been waiting for as Sun claims this as the first and only 2U Opteron 8300 quad socket rack server on the market. All other vendor's Opteron MP solutions are delivered in much less space efficient chassis - IBM's System x3755, Dell's R905 and HP's DL585 G5 are twice the height of the X4440.

Sun has done a fine job of cramming the features in, as the front panel has room for up to eight SFF hot-swap hard disks - the same number supported by the R905 and DL585, and twice that of the x3755 which only supports four larger 3.5in drives. There's still plenty of room up front as the top half of the panel is used as a vent to allow an unimpeded air flow through the chassis, whilst the two right hand bays have an optical drive above them.

The top panel has a separate hatch which affords full access to a bank of twelve cooling fans. Arranged in pairs these units are all hot-swappable and can be removed and replaced without taking the server out of the rack or powering it down. However, what lies beneath the main lid is of more interest as Sun has been quite canny in the design department.

The price includes four 2.7GHz Opteron 8384 modules and two are sited on an easily removable mezzanine card with the other pair located underneath. Each processor socket is partnered by eight DIMM sockets and the 16GB of memory supplied in the review system can be upgraded to the chipset's maximum capacity of 256GB.

This internal arrangement means expansion potential isn't compromised as you have three riser cards at the back offering a total of six PCI Express slots with speeds ranging from x16 to x4. The optional RAID controller occupies one slot and is based on Adaptec's RAID 5805 adapter, which offers a pair of 4-channel internal SAS/SATA ports, a 1.2GHz dual-core ROC (RAID on Chip), plus 256MB of DDR2 cache memory and the battery backup pack as well.

As we found with the X4140, Sun seems to offer that little bit more than everyone else. It matches the competition on storage and expansion potential, but steps out for network connections as the motherboard has four embedded Gigabit ports up for grabs - all other Opteron 8300 servers apart from Dell's R905 only offer two. Power redundancy is also on the cards as the server came with both 1050W hot-plug supplies included.

The motherboard also ports Sun's embedded ILOM (integrated lights out management) chip. This offers a dedicated Fast Ethernet port at the rear where it provides full KVM-over-IP services, allowing the server to be remotely monitored and controlled regardless of its condition. Only HP's DL585 G5 matches Sun with a iLO2 chip onboard - both Dell and IBM expect you to pay extra for their respective DRAC and RSA II cards.

First time installation is helped along by Sun's Installation Assistant, but unlike HP, Dell and IBM, you don't get any management software included as standard. You can purchase the xVM Ops Center software suite with features such as firmware provisioning, inventory, system monitoring and alerting, but Sun is thinking small here as all its x64 servers integrate with its competitor's management software because it reckons most sites will already have one of these suites in use.

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