Last of the red hot Sun servers

Sun's fast and cheap Nehalem-powered Sun Fire X2270 and Sun Fire X4270 promise to put some sizzle into Oracle's hardware business

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The X4270 also bumps up the maximum RAM level to 144GB, using 18 DDR3 DIMM slots, and doubles the X2270's supply of Gigabit Ethernet interfaces with a total of four. It also expands on the slot assortment, with six 8x PCIe 2.0 slots available. In addition to this expansion bus, the X4270 has an internal CompactFlash slot, which makes building the X4270 into a VMware ESXi server extremely simple: Image a CompactFlash card with ESXi, slide it into the slot, and boot the server as a diskless VMware ESX host. Note that this can also be achieved with the X2270, albeit with the use of the internal USB port, not a CompactFlash slot.

Like its smaller sibling, the X4270 offers Sun's ILOM management processor and several external USB ports. Also like the X2270, the X4270 performs extremely well in the VMware tests, putting up numbers marginally better than the X2270.

This says more about the X2270 than the X4270. While they're both very good examples of Intel's Nehalem processor architecture, the low-end X2270 can hold its own with its pricier brethren.

Both models are impressive entries into the Nehalem-based server market. Sun's x64-based hardware has been superlative for the past few years, and these new servers are the latest in a line of solid server platforms. Leveraging the surprising power of the Nehalem architecture, they should find a home just about anywhere -- assuming that Oracle's acquisiton of Sun doesn't rock the boat.

It's too bad that so many questions surround Oracle's takeover. Sun has been putting out extremely inexpensive, feature-rich, and solid x64 servers for quite some time, and it's a shame that the future of Sun's hardware production is uncertain. Note to Oracle: Sun's hardware development is doing very well -- no need to make any changes.

Nehalem-based Sun Fire servers at a glance

Cost Platforms Bottom Line
Sun Fire X2270 Starts at $1,488 Solaris 10, OpenSolaris, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server, VMware ESX 3.5, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 There's lots of power in this 1U package, with up to two Intel X5500 Nehalem CPUs, 96GB DDR3 RAM, and 4TB raw SATA local storage. The expansion options are limited to a single low-profile PCIe 2.0 slot, and the inclusion of only two gigabit Ethernet interfaces is somewhat disappointing, but for raw cost/performance, it's a very good deal.
Sun Fire X4270 Starts at $2,845 Solaris 10, OpenSolaris, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Suse Linux Enterprise Server, VMware ESX 3.5, Windows Server 2003, Windows Server 2008 There's nearly nothing to dislike about this 2U server. Capable of handling up to two Intel X5500 Nehalem CPUs, 144GB DDR3 RAM, and sixteen 2.5-inch hot-swap SAS, SATA, or SSD drives, it has power and expansion to spare. Four integrated Gigabit Ethernet interfaces and six PCIe 2.0 expansion slots certainly prove that point. This is a 2U server that drives like a 4U server.
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