Today's data center managers have to balance a host of server requirements, including physical space, power, and cooling. And virtualized servers must be reliable because one machine may be running the same number of applications that used to be spread across multiple physical devices.
Enter Sun Microsystems' Sun Fire X4150. The 1U server we tested came packed with dual 2.8-GHz quad-core Intel Harpertown processors, 16 dual in-line memory module (DIMM) slots, three PCI-E slots, and four Intel Gigabit Ethernet network interface cards. Despite all this capacity, the Sun Fire X4150 sips, and doesn't guzzle, electricity. In addition, the management and service processor makes it an ideal virtualization platform.
On the downside, the Java-based remote console is clunky and requires Java Web Start, which is part of the standard Sun Java Runtime Environment.
RACK 'EM UP
Sun crams a lot of gear into this 1U device. To put it in perspective, a standard rack can hold as many as 40 of these servers. Thus, a rack full of the units as we tested would give you a whopping 320 processor cores, 320 hot-swappable hard drives, 640 DIMM slots, 120 PCI-E slots, and 160 Gigabit Ethernet connections.
The X4150 we tested is rated at 319 watts of power usage when idle and 417 watts when busy, which is consistent with what we saw in the lab. Each 2.8-GHz processor in the machine uses 80 watts. Sun also offers a higher-performing Sun Fire X4150 with a faster 3.12-GHz processor, but that processor consumes 120 watts of power.
Cooling is a major concern in the design of 1U servers. An innovative hard drive enclosure allows air to flow around all parts of the drive, allowing for plenty of cooling for the rest of the machine.
As expected, the X4150's Solaris support is top notch. However, the X4150 also is an ideal machine to run VMware's Virtual Infrastructure 3, Novell's SLES 10, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Windows Server 2008.
We also used a beta version of Sun's Installation Assistant, which promises to smooth out minor installation snags. The Installation Assistant took charge to ensure that the right drivers were installed.