EXCLUSIVE - Lenovo ThinkServer RD120

Lenovo moves into the SMB server market and in this exclusive review we see how well it stacks up against the competition.

More storage choices are available as Lenovo's partnership extends to a number of ThinkServer ready' options where you can get hold of IBM upgrades. These include conversions to eight 2.5in. SFF or four 3.5in hard disks and an internal tape drive plus external storage arrays. Also, the basic ServeRAID 8k-l controller and its meagre 32MB cache module can be upgraded with more cache memory and a battery backup pack so bringing RAID-5 and -6 arrays into play.

The price for the review system includes a pair of 2GHz quad-core Xeons and these are mounted with sturdy passive heatsinks. Twelve DIMM sockets are provided so there's plenty of room to expand in the memory department and these are covered with a plastic shroud to improve cooling. Sites concerned about the environment and general power consumption will find the RD120 is easy on the utility supply. With both supplies hooked up to our inline power meter we recorded the server drawing 45W in standby and 203W with the OS in idle. With SiSoft Sandra maxing out all eight processor cores this rose to only 289W.

As the server wasn't supplied with a preinstalled OS it gave us a chance to try out Lenovo's EasyStartup bootable CDROM. This provides a guide for streamlining OS installation, driver installation and creating response files for multiple deployments. Once up and running the Windows EasyUpdate utility looks after server specific update. It checks with Lenovo's support site at scheduled intervals and downloads and installs them for you.

For general management you don't get the benefit of IBM's Director as an agreement with Avocent means its LANDesk software is bundled with the server as Lenovo EasyManage. This is designed to manage entire networks of servers and workstations at local and remote sites and offers a wealth of features. Standard services include inventory, remote control and monitoring but EasyManage also provides scheduled network auto-discovery, software distribution and OS deployment, role based administration, license and patch management plus detailed reporting.

Considering EasyManage is included in the price, it does add a lot of value to the ThinkServer products but it is best suited to larger business with sufficient hardware to make it worth using. Small businesses running a single server will find it totally unsuitable as EasyManage requires a core server component which doesn't support Windows Server 2008 and is best installed on a dedicated system.

If you want a simpler remote management solution we suggest IBM's RSA SlimLine II card, which fits into a dedicated slot on the motherboard and activates the separate Fast Ethernet management port. With this in place you get full remote browser access to the server as long as power is available. You can access power settings, remotely control the server and view system health, status and error logs.

With IBM behind it the RD120 delivers a quality server with a good range of expansion options. The server management package is unlikely to appeal to smaller businesses but you're getting a decent hardware specification for the price and Lenovo's standard support package is a cut above the rest.

Verdict

The RD120 isn’t as good value as the equivalent PowerEdge 2950 III from Dell and Lenovo’s EasyManage software won’t impress SMBs planning on purchasing a single server. However, it delivers IBM’s classy build quality and wide choice of expansion options whilst Lenovo’s initial hardware and software support will appeal to smaller businesses with limited on-site IT expertise.

Chassis: 2U rack chassis CPU: 2 x 2GHz Xeon E5335 Memory: 4GB 667MHz FB-DIMM expandable to 48GB Storage: 1 x 146GB IBM SAS 10k hard disk RAID: IBM ServeRAID 8k-l with 32MB cache Array support: RAID0, 1, 10 Expansion: 2 x PCI-e x8 and PCI-e x4 slots Network: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet Power: 2 x 835W hot-swap supplies Management: Lenovo EasyUpdate and EasyManage software

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