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

It's unclear exactly how the Sun will set this month or what Oracle will be doing with the hardware side of Sun. Will Sun servers soon get a coat of Oracle Red and an "Unbreakable" stamp? Whatever happens, it seems that Oracle will be inheriting a hardware engineering group that's firing on all cylinders. The new Sun Fire X2270 and Sun Fire X4270 servers are the fastest x64 servers Sun has ever produced.

The Sun X2270 is a low-cost, 1U rack mount system starting at just $1,488. The X4270 is the X2270's big brother, a 2U system starting at $3,445. Both servers can run one or two Intel Nehalem CPUs, from the 2.0GHz E5504s to the high-end 2.93GHz X5570s. But whereas the X2270 packs a lot of compute power in a somewhat constrained chassis, the X4270 offers slightly more power in a much more expansive box. My evaluation units both had two X5570 CPUs and 24GB of DDR3 RAM.

[ What if Oracle bought Sun Microsystems? Expect radical changes. Learn the 10 ways Oracle could make money from Sun. ]

The quick skinny: The X2270 would do extremely well as a front-end Web server, a small database server, or a member of a virtualization farm, with the addition of a few NICs or an HBA. It's constrained by a single power supply, a single PCIe slot, only a pair of NICs, and four disk drive bays, but the low cost offsets these limitations, depending on the application.

The X4270 is the best of both worlds, offering the 2U form factor that adds significant expansion opportunities and a wealth of local disk options. This is a shoe-in for a database server, application server, storage server, or basically anything you can throw at it. With the ability to house more than 2.3TB locally across sixteen 146GB SAS drives, four gigabit NICs, redundant power, and six expansion slots, there's little that this box can't handle.

Virtual test bench

To test each server, I opted for my baseline VMware test application, which is a LAMP stack packaged as a vSphere vApp with four VMs. This test is designed to mimic a large, database-driven Web application, using a randomized mix of dynamic and static page delivery. It's built on four CentOS 5.3 servers: a single MySQL server built with four vCPUs and 8GB of RAM, two Web front-end servers with two vCPUs and 4GB of RAM each, and a load balancer with a single vCPU and 1GB of RAM. The Web servers run a tweaked Apache 2.2 Web server, with content mounted on an NFS share to the database server. The database server runs a highly tweaked MySQL 5.1.25 installation and exports the Web root to the front-end servers. All load balancing is handled by Nginx, running in the load balancer VM.

InfoWorld Scorecard
Expandability (20.0%)
Reliability (20.0%)
Value (10.0%)
Management (20.0%)
Performance (30.0%)
Overall Score (100%)
Sun Fire X2270 6.0 8.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.2
Sun Fire X4270 9.0 8.0 9.0 9.0 9.0 8.8
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