Nehalem tower servers: Dell, Fujitsu, HP square off

Three new servers based on Intel's latest Xeon CPU combine huge performance gains with excellent management tools; the choice comes down to expandability and price

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Fujitsu Primergy TX300 S5
When the vendor list for this roundup was finalized, I was happy to learn that I'd get a chance to check out a server from Fujitsu, a company I don't have a lot of experience with. The Primergy TX300 S5 is a fine piece of server craftsmanship. This tower, which can also be installed as a 4U rack chassis, is by far the biggest server in my review. This thing is so deep -- measuring roughly 26.5 inches front to back -- it arrived on a pallet big enough for a big-screen TV. (I'm such a geek, I'd rather have the server.)

Capable of as much as 8TB of online disk space and up to 144GB of DDR3 RAM, the TX300 comes with a useful pop-out LCD for local service messages. Remote management is via Fujitsu's iRMC (integrated Remote Management Controller), which allows for remote administration regardless of system status. Like the Dell PowerEdge, my TX300 shipped with dual Xeon X5550 CPUs and 24GB of DDR3 RAM. Unlike Dell and HP, Fujitsu doesn't position its fans to move air front to back through the chassis. Instead, three 120mm fans are lined up right in the middle of the chassis and directly over the CPUs and memory banks, blowing down on the components. Unlike the others, Fujitsu's fans are hot swappable, and they seal against the chassis so that air is drawn in from the front, across the hard drives, down over the CPU and RAM, and then out through the power supplies. It's an interesting yet effective way of cooling the system.

The Primergy is loaded with USB ports. It has three front panel, four rear, and three internal USB 2.0 ports for a total of ten -- the most in this roundup. One of the internal USB ports will accept a standard memory stick to allow for bare-metal booting. It also comes with seven PCIe slots -- again, the most out of the group. The TX300 is the only server in this roundup with a front panel VGA port -- a nice touch.

Fujitsu offers redundant hot-swap power supplies with the TX300, but unlike Dell and HP, there is only one type: an 800-watt unit. Like the others, the power supplies snap-lock in place and can be removed without any tools. Noise levels when the TX300 was operational were on the high side when compared to the other chassis. While the Fujitsu wasn't as loud as most rack-mount servers, it was loud enough to make telephone conversations in the same room challenging whenever the fans spun up to reduce system temperature.

Power consumption with the Primergy TX300 was the worst of the three servers. Its wattage and amperage consumption were higher than the other servers across the board. With the system idling, the TX300 used 87 watts more than the PowerEdge T610 and 67.4 more than the HP. At full usage, the TX300 used 59.2 watts more than the Dell and 44.6 more than the HP.

Fujitsu's larger chassis allows for additional SFF hard drives but is still limited to 8TB of overall space. This chassis can accommodate up to sixteen 2.5-inch SFF or eight 3.5-inch LFF hard drives. A wide range of drive choices is available, including SSD, SATA, and SAS. My test server came with three 450GB 15K RPM SAS drives in RAID 5.

The Primergy server has two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces, using the Intel 82575EB chip set. Other network options are available such as two- and four-port Gigabit Ethernet adapters and two-port 10 Gigabit adapters.

Remote management chores are part of the iRMC (integrated Remote Management Controller). This is a chip-based autonomous system that functions independently of the server, providing remote control of the Primergy server regardless of status. Two versions of iRMC are available. The standard version provides access to system information, such as fans and power voltages, via a standard Web browser and the Java runtime engine, as well as the ability to set power management policies, update firmware, and handle alarms. As with other remote management tools, admins can power the system on and off and interact with the server prior to an OS loading.

Nehalem tower servers: Power consumption compared

 Dell PowerEdge T610Fujitsu Primergy TX300HP ProLiant ML350
Standby (plugged in, powered off)14.5 Watts15.7 Watts7.8 Watts
Idle (booted up, no load)136.6 Watts223.8 Watts156.4 Watts
100% CPU utilization307.7 Watts366.9 Watts322.3 Watts

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