EXCLUSIVE: transtec Modular Server

An SMB blade server with value high on the agenda, good remote management and some unique storage possibilities.

Price
£4,500

The perception that blade servers are only for enterprises with deep pockets was shattered last year by both HP and IBM and now transtec wants a piece of the action. In an exclusive review of HP's BladeSystem c3000 in our sister title, PC Pro, we saw the first SMB blade server to market delivering a classy combination of features at an affordable price.

In IT PRO we also took an exclusive look at IBM's BladeCenter S and liked what we saw here as well. The latest Modular Server from transtec certainly looks capable of competing on price with the blue chips and in this exclusive review we see how well it stacks up against them.

Intel's influence behind the scenes with this system is strong. It introduced its Modular Server for three markets: for SMBs planning on consolidating IT services onto a single system, for those looking for a single platform with plenty of expansion potential, and for businesses with virtualisation as a priority. The Modular Server is positioned as an entry level blade solution with ease of deployment and management high on the agenda.

This 6U rack mount chassis has six horizontal slots at the front for the compute modules. There's a good choice on offer as the customised Intel motherboard is based on the PAL5000 platform and so supports dual- and quad-core Xeon DP processors. The price for the review system includes a pair of modules and each was kitted out with 8GB of memory, which can be expanded to 32GB. The pair of embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports can be doubled with an additional dual-port mezzanine card.

For storage, the Modular Server takes a similar tack to IBM's BladeCenter S, which uses two storage modules each holding six 3.5in hard disks that can be split up into zones and assigned to selected server blades. However, the Modular Server looks more versatile as the two bays at the front each support up to seven SFF hard disks.

Both bays are linked to the chassis midplane, where they are routed through to a storage controller blade at the rear, which supports a good range of arrays including RAID-6.

I/O blade options are currently restricted to Gigabit Ethernet and the base system comes with one switch blade and a spare slot for a second. These manageable L2 switches each have ten Gigabit uplink ports and twelve internal ports, which are linked to the compute modules via the chassis midplane. The chassis comes as standard with one management module, which provides remote access to the chassis and all components and you can add a second for redundancy.

For remote management, the Modular Server Control (MSC) web interface provides easy access to all components. A dashboard view reveals power status and consumption, temperatures for the enclosure, drives and CPUs, system health and alerts to problems. A row of tabs above enables you to swap to a graphic of the front and rear panels showing installed components and selecting one provides more detail about them in a table below.

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