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Lenovo System x3550 M5 server review

Lenovo’s System x3550 M5 1U rack server has versatility as its middle name

One feature we really like is the ability to upgrade all systems to larger drive counts. Even if you start with the four SFF simple-swap option, this can be upgraded in the field to eight, ten or even twelve drives as required.

Lenovo has made a wholesale move to 12Gbps SAS and offers a good range of RAID controllers. The price of our system includes the slot-less ServeRAID M5210 complete with 1GB of NVRAM cache and the RAID5 upgrade key.

The embedded IMM2 controller offers a basic but functional web interface with the server

Internal design

The server presents a well-designed interior with plenty of room to upgrade. At the back are two riser cards allowing up to three PCI-Express cards to be fitted although the right-most one requires Lenovo's proprietary mounting bracket.

The CPU and memory sockets are covered by an easily removable air shroud. The TruDDR4 memory has built-in signatures that the server will authenticate and Lenovo claims they'll run up to 12% faster than Intel's specifications when placed in two RDIMM per channel configurations.

Cooling is handled well as the server supports up to eight hot-plug fans arranged behind the drive backplane. Lenovo's calibrated vectored cooling splits them into two zones allowing the server to operate in ambient temperatures up to 40 degrees C.

There are also plenty of power options as along with the dual 750W hot-plug PSUs in our system, Lenovo offers 550W, 900W and 1500W versions. Power consumption on the review system was low with it drawing only 98W in idle and peaking at 260W under extreme load. 

For integral virtualisation, Lenovo takes a leaf from Dell's book as it also offers a dual SD card adapter for booting into an embedded hypervisor. The card fits into a dedicated slot next to the PSU bay and when both media slots are populated, supports up to eight mirrored volumes.

An OS can be deployed manually via the ServerGuide DVD which also provides diagnostics tools

Conclusion

We're pleased to see Lenovo has addressed its server remote management shortcomings with the new xClarity Administrator software. The x3550 M5 lacks embedded OS deployment tools but xClarity also makes up for this with an easily installed and sophisticated network management package. 

The server itself delivers a versatile 1U rack package that compares well on price with similar systems from Dell and HP. Storage options are plentiful and the multitude of upgrade options make it a good investment for the future.

Verdict

The x3550 M5 is a remarkably versatile and powerful 1U rack server that can turn its hand to most datacentre tasks.

Chassis: 2U rack
CPU: 2 x 2.2GHz Xeon E5-2650 v4
Memory: 128GB 2,400MHz TruDDR4 (max 1.5TB with 64GB LRDIMMs)
Drive bays: 8 x SAS/SATA SFF (max 12)
Storage: 1 x 300GB 10K SAS SFF HDD
RAID: Lenovo ServeRAID M5210 12Gbps SAS3/1GB/RAID5
Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5 (6 optional)
Expansion: 3 x PCI-e Gen3
Network: 4 x embedded Gigabit
Power: 2 x 750W Platinum hot-plug PSU
Management: IMM2 Advanced
Warranty: 3 years on-site NBD
Options: Lenovo xClarity Administrator - £141 ex VAT per managed server/year

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