IBM System x3850 X5 review

The latest System x3850 X5 offers an expansion potential that defies belief. In this exclusive review we bring you the first look at IBM’s new Xeon 7500 rack server.

Price
£27,688

Since Intel's launch of its Xeon 7500 processors we've already reviewed Dell's new PowerEdge R910 and in another exclusive review we take a close look at IBM's latest System x3850 X5. The R910 impressed us with its excellent build quality and features but the x3850 X5 takes this to the next level with a remarkable expansion potential.

As one of the new eX5 server portfolio, the x3850 X5 takes advantage of IBM's fifth generation EXA (enterprise X architecture) to deliver a unique range of expansion options. Firstly, you can increase memory capacity of the base system from the standard 1TB up to 1.5TB by adding a Max5 external memory expansion unit.

If that isn't enough, you can directly link a second x3850 X5 system so that the two servers become one. In this scenario you now have a single eight-way Xeon 7500 server capable of delivering up to 64 physical and 128 logical processor cores plus support for up to 2TB of DRR3 memory.

Storage capacity is reasonable as this 4U chassis supports a maximum of eight internal hot-swap SFF hard disks. The data optimised version supports IBM's new eXFlash 1.8in. SSDs and comes with a different backplane.

The base model can handle up to eight of these SSDs which can be increased to sixteen with an additional backplane. Linking two chassis together doubles the drive count for both SAS and SSD.

Internally, the server is very well designed with blue touch points showing items that can be removed by hand and orange ones to indicate they are hot-swappable. Two hot-swap 12cms diameter fans at the front deal with the main chassis and processor cooling and behind these are eight cold-swap memory cards each with eight DIMM slots.

You get a pair of embedded Gigabit ports but the price of the review system includes an Emulex dual-port 10GbE adapter. There's plenty of room for more as you have six spare PCI-e slots available. We also noted that the interior design of the R910 has restrictions on the length of expansion cards but in the x3850 X5 four of the slots can accommodate full-height, full-length cards.

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