IBM eServer xSeries 226

A well-specified server with plenty of redundancy - a great choice for running business critical applications

Price
£1,447
  • Superb build quality, good expansion options, dual Xeon support, and a quality RAID controller
  • The system's MSI motherboard is looking a little long in the tooth

IBM servers are legendary for their excellent build quality and the latest xSeries 226 is no exception. Its mighty chassis is both extremely heavy and solidly constructed, with the traditional grab handle located above the front panel. It's physically pretty secure too with a lockable side panel, which also locks a metal plate to the side of the storage bay to stop the hard disks being removed.

The 226 provides its target market with plenty of options as it comes in rack as well as pedestal form and for storage you can choose between SCSI and SATA. We found the former offers the more flexible storage choices, however, with support for a sextuplet of hot-swap SCSI hard disks through the use of an embedded Adaptec dual channel Ultra320 SCSI chipset. Impressively, the price also includes an IBM ServeRAID 6i controller card which comes with 128MB of cache memory and a battery backup pack as well. This slots into the ZCR (zero channel RAID) slot on the motherboard where it handles both SCSI channels, offering a choice of RAID-0, -1, -10 or -5 arrays plus hot-swap and hot-standby.

For its lower-end servers IBM sources its motherboards from MicroStar and to this end the 226 is endowed with an E7525 Master-S2 model, which although aimed mainly at workstation usage and looking a bit long in the tooth, does sit comfortably with server duties. Plugged into this is a single 3GHz Xeon processor but the board does have room for a second processor and the 1GB of PC3200 memory included in the price can be expanded to a healthy 16GB as well.

Cooling is handled very efficiently by a pair of large radial fans at the rear of the chassis with a third servicing the hard disk bay. The processor is mounted with a chunky passive heatsink and a large transparent plastic shroud ensures that air is directed where it's needed most. Overall, this is a very quiet server, which makes it well worth considering for small office duties where a noisy server would be a major annoyance.

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Expansion options are good too. Even with the RAID controller installed there are still plenty of PCI slots to play with, plus a 16X PCI Express slot as well. One feature you don't expect to see at this level of the market is power redundancy but IBM has managed to add this without breaking the price limit and the server has a pair of 514W hot-plug supplies at the rear. For network connection IBM provides a single Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet port.

Supplied on a bootable CD-ROM, IBM's ServerGuide utility assists with initial installation by offering to set up the hard disks, create a system partition, install drivers and load your chosen operating system. General management duties are handled by the bundled Director suite, which allows any IBM system that has the appropriate agent software installed to be monitored. It provides plenty of detail on critical system components such as processors, memory and cooling fans, errors and failures, and can be linked to an impressive selection of event actions including email, network broadcast and SNMP traps.

With the 226, IBM has delivered a very balanced range of features with fault tolerance high on the list. The MSI motherboard may well be looking a bit antiquated, but for business critical applications the build-quality, RAID options and redundant power supply make it well worth looking at.

Verdict

A well-specified server with plenty of redundancy - a great choice for running business critical applications

Motherboard: MSI E7525 Master S2 CPU: 1 x 3GHz Intel Xeon Chipset: Intel E7525 Memory: 1GB PC3200 Storage controller: embedded Adaptec 7902W Disk interface: Ultra320 SCSI Disk drives: 2 x 73.4GB IBM Ultra320 SCSI RAID controller: IBM ServeRAID 6i with 128MB cache memory and battery backup pack Expansion slots 16X PCI Express, 1x 64-bit/133MHz and 2x 64-bit/100MHz PCI-X slots plus 2 32-bit/33MHz PCI Network ports: 1 x Broadcom Gigabit Ethernet Power: 2 x 514W hot-plug supplies Management software: IBM Director 5.1 Other: None Warranty: Three yrs on-site NBD

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