IBM System x3455

IBM’s System x3455 targets HPC and compute node duties and offers a fine hardware package in the process, but is it the best choice?

Power redundancy isn't a feature as the server has a single, fixed 545W supply and there's no option to add a second. In our metering tests the processors showed their hunger for power. With the server in standby mode our inline meter reported a modest draw of only 15W which rose to 161W with the Server 2003 R2 OS in idle. Using SiSoft Sandra to push all eight cores to maximum utilisation we saw this peak at a comparatively high 303W.

Director 5.2 is IBM's standard management software for all its servers, blade servers, workstations and laptops and requires an agent loaded locally for the system to be remotely managed. It runs on a separate server, which doesn't need to be dedicated and for storing inventory data it can use existing DB2, SQL Server and Oracle databases or will install its own copy of Apache Derby.

The main console hasn't changed for years but it is well designed and provides good levels of information about monitored servers. After installation it runs a quick start wizard that helps build an action plan where you select from the list of managed servers, choose which ones you want to monitor and decide how you should be notified if errors or problems are detected. Events range from CPU and memory utilisation to available hard disk space and you can apply custom thresholds to each value.

The Director console comprises three windows with the centre one showing all discovered systems. Usefully, this can include non-IBM systems as you can install the agent on them and gather inventory and alerting information and remotely control power. Each system is assigned a status icon and the view can be changed to show, for example, only systems with agents installed or those with critical alerts

The left pane is used to show managed systems and you can create custom groups that include specific systems for easier management. The pane on the opposite side lists all available tasks and a handy feature is that these can be run simply by dragging and dropping their icon onto a single system or a group where they then run automatically.

The x3455 doesn't support IBM's SlimLine remote management adapters but the motherboard does come with an embedded IPMI 2 controller chip. This appears in the Director console under the relevant server and a drop down menu enables you to remotely power the server on and off or restart it. The controller can also be accessed via IBM's SMBridge remote Telnet server, which provides a basic CLI for running diagnostics.

As a simple but powerful compute node the System x3455 offers a good specification. It comes with a decent management package as well although HP holds the high ground here as its Systems Insight Manager suite and embedded iLO2 controllers are provided on nearly all is its rack servers making for a far more sophisticated solution.

As the launch of AMD's eagerly awaited Shanghai quad-core Opteron is now upon us we checked with IBM regarding support. We received confirmation that the new processors are compatible with Socket F1 1207 systems and IBM advised us that the x3455 will be updated to support these.

Verdict

The x3455 is a very well built 1U rack server with a performance oriented hardware package. However, it is quite pricey. In compute node and HPC environments remote server management and monitoring is a must and although not as sophisticated as HP’s solutions, IBM’s Director does deliver plenty of useful features including good alerting facilities.

Chassis: 1U rack

CPU: 2 x 2.5GHz AMD Opteron 2360SE

Memory: 8GB of 667MHz DDR2 SDRAM expandable to 48GB

Storage: 2 x 160GB Western Digital SATA hard disks

RAID: LSI SAS3444E PCI-e card

Array support: RAID 1

Expansion: 2 x PCI-e (16X and 8X)

Network: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet

Power: 1 x 545W fixed supply

Management: Embedded IPMI 2.0 BMC

Software: IBM ServerGuide 8.1, Director 5.2

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