IBM System x3550 M4 review

IBM’s System x3550 M4 rack server combines E5-2600 Xeon power with a new energy efficient design. Its expansion potential also targets businesses looking to start small but get the most from their investment.

Low power consumption

IBM provided the review system with a single 550W hot-plug supply which can be augmented with a second costing round 160. For higher power systems you can opt for meatier 750W supplies but HP goes further as its DL380p Gen8 also supports 1200W models.

Power consumption is in-line with similar rack systems as with Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise idling along, we recorded a draw of 95W. With SiSoft Sandra pushing the processors to the max, this peaked at 228W.

For virtualisation duties, Dell's PowerEdge R620 is our top choice as it has dual internal SD card slots for hypervisor redundancy. The DL360p has a single SD card slot but IBM only provides an internal USB socket for booting from an embedded hypervisor.

IBM System x3550 M4 2

The IMM2 isn't as clever as HP's iLO4 controller but it does provide plenty of operational information and alerting facilities

Server deployment and remote management

IBM also needs to look to Dell and HP for the best server deployment tools as you still have to boot its servers with the ServerGuide DVD to get an OS on them. Dell did away with the need for this three years ago and HP caught up recently with its Intelligent Provisioning feature.

Network options are superior to HP as the x3550 M4 has four embedded Gigabit ports and an extra port for an Emulex dual-port 10GbE mezzanine card. The DL360p Gen8 only has a single connector that supports HP's FlexLOM quad Gigabit or dual 10GbE cards.

HP set the standard for remote management with its iLO4 chip and although IBM's new IMM2 sees big improvements, it's not as sophisticated. The IMM2 Basic doesn't support web browser access or KVM-over-IP remote control and to get these requires the Advanced upgrade which costs an extra 180.

IBM's Systems Director provides general systems management tools and is much easier to deploy than Dell's Management Console or HP's Insight Control software. It can manage all SNMP capable devices and provides a big toolbox including network discovery, software deployment, inventory and file transfer.

IBM System x3550 M4 3

If you want remote control you'll need to upgrade the IMM2 to the Advanced version which costs an extra 180

Unlike HP's iLO4 or Dell's iDRAC7, the IMM2 doesn't have integral power metering but it can pass this information on to the Active Energy Manager plug-in. This allows System Director to provide power capping plus trend graphs of consumption and system temperatures.

Conclusion

The x3550 M4 is a compact and powerful low profile rack server that has plenty of room to grow. It's well designed and built with a low power usage but HP's ProLiant DL360p Gen8 is better value and provides more features and superior remote management.

Verdict

The x3550 M4 is up to the usual high standard of build quality we expect from IBM and it is easy to expand with plenty of options available. It’s a good choice as a general all-rounder or for running business critical apps although it loses out to HP’s ProLiant DL360p Gen8 which offers better manageability and value.

Chassis: 1U rack CPU: 2 x 2.5GHz Xeon E5-2640 Memory: 16GB DDR3 RDIMM (max. 768GB with LR-DIMMs) Storage: 2 x 300GB IBM 15k SAS 2 hot-swap hard disks (max. 8) RAID: IBM ServeRAID M5110 with 512MB FBWC Array support: supports RAID0, 1, 10, 5 Expansion: 2 x PCI-e Gen3 Network: 4 x Gigabit Power: 550W hot-plug supply (max. 2) Management: IMM2 Basic Software: IBM Systems Director 6.3 software Warranty: 3yrs on-site NBD

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