Muscular SunFire X4200 feels the burn
Opteron-powered 2U server proves a strong datacenter workhorse with a nice priceFollow @pvenezia
In this arena, Sun has been working overtime. Service processors are becoming more common in the higher-end server class. The X4200 is no exception. Sun’s ILOM provides SNMP, Web, and CLI-based server management via a dedicated 10/100 Ethernet interface. The Web GUI is obviously built on Java and can be quite pokey at times, taking several seconds to switch between tabs, for instance. It does provide the necessities such as remote power control, server health inspection, management configuration settings, and remote control capabilities, however.
The remote-control function is implemented quite nicely on the x4200. Requiring Java 5.0, it allows admins to gain remote KVM control of the server via an encrypted session to the service processor alone -- no KVM switches necessary. Unlike similar implementations from other vendors, 16-bit graphical remote control is possible without extra cost and it’s very well handled. The interface provides solid video reproduction and great mouse control, which is problematic on many remote KVM devices. All service processor interface functions, including the remote control application, ran flawlessly via Firefox on Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X.
All this is part of Sun N1, Sun’s overall server management architecture. N1 collects all Sun servers, whether x64- or Sparc-based, into a central management console that automates software deployment, server management, and even offers a grid computing platform to share resources between disparate servers.
I ran the x4200 through several real-world challenges, including Web-serving and file-serving tasks. It performed well, largely holding its own in all categories. In the static Web test, I ran ab benchmarks against the X4200 running Apache 2.0, serving Sun’s own front page, including all images, and came away with an average of 2,100 requests per second.
In the SSL tests, I ran sslswamp against Apache with a fairly well-tweaked SSL configuration and came away with an average of 405 operations per second, which is quite good, especially when compared to a pre-tweak average of 25 operations per second.
I ran my file-serving tests via Samba running with Solaris 10 on the X4200, and nbench smbtorture tests driven from another server. In this case, the throughput was lower than I expected, averaging around 18MBps, but that was due to the single 2.5-inch disk in the X4200. If a RAID5 array were available within the X4200, or the tests were run with disk served via SAN, I expect the numbers would have been significantly higher. Although some performance tuning was done on both the Apache and Samba servers before testing, it wasn’t exhaustive.
As far as commodity Opteron-based servers go, the Sun Fire X4200 is near the front of the pack in design, performance, and management. I could easily picture myself building out a datacenter with X4200s. A better disk I/O subsystem would complete the picture, but even with that caveat, the X4200 is an attractive, solid workhorse server and a good value for the money.