I’m a Windows-Server-kinda guy. It’s my job. I also administer VMware ESX Servers and I dabble in Linux. One of my
specialties is specifying and configuring hardware solutions, so I
keep up on the x86 server hardware front. I’d been alerted to the
pending debut of the Sun “Galaxy”
Opteron-based servers (which occurred Monday), so I checked them
out.

Our requirements usually don’t call for 1U servers, so I naturally
gravitated towards the Fire X4200: a 2U,
2-socket, dual-core capable server. It looks nice, but spartan. The
only top-tier server that it directly competes with is the HP
Proliant DL385
(the 1U IBM eServer
326
is IBM’s only Opteron server offering currently). How do
their differences compare? I’ll look at just the SAS version of the
DL385 since those are the only drives supported in the X4200.

  • The DL385 can hold up to eight SAS drives; the X4200 holds up to 4.
  • The X4200 supports up to two 2.4GHz dual-core Opterons; the DL385
    currently maxes out at 2.2GHz.
  • The X4200 has four Gig-E ports; the DL385 has two.
  • The X4200’s list price for a dual 2.2GHz dual-core server with 4GB
    memory, two 72GB hard drives, and their other standard items
    (including the Solaris 10 OS) is US$7795, compared to a
    similarly-configured DL385 at $8617 (which doesn’t include an OS).
    This pricing isn’t too bad when compared to quad-CPU Xeons, which I do
    think these servers compare to performance-wise.

The X4200 appears to be for real. I’ve blogged in the past about
using 4-CPU Opterons for VMware ESX Server; for
ESX requirements that require up to 16GB of memory, this box would be
an excellent fit (once it’s certified, of course). In particular, the
four NICs are very useful: one for the service console, one for
VMotion, and two for virtual machine use. Aside from external
storage, one might be able to use one of these for ESX right out of
the box.

Infoworld has covered the launch nicely, and the kind of remote management they describe is the kind that’s great in a pinch. It’ll be interesting to see how well Windows embraces (or is embraced by) the platform, in the light of the Sun/MS detente. I have a feeling these will be used for HPC clusters more than anything else, but they would also make great web servers.

Tim Bray (of Sun)
updated his
entry
about the new servers saying that Wes Felter of IBM is dissing the Galaxy
servers as commodity. (Note IBM’s small number of AMD-based server
offerings.) Yes, that’s exactly what they appear to be; commodity
servers done right.