by March 1, 2005 0 comments

This is the first 64-bit CPU-based rack server that we’ve reviewed. It has a 2-U form factor and is powered by two 1.6 GHz Itanium 2 processors, each with a whopping 3 MB L3 cache. With such raw computing power under the hood, this server is certainly not meant for regular file and print applications, but for scientific and enterprise class business applications such as
ERP, SCM, databases and high-performance computing applications-those for fluid dynamics analysis and mechanical CAD. However, you should keep in mind that Itanium 2 is meant to run pure 64-bit apps and not 32-bit ones. It can run 32-bit apps only in an emulation mode. So, go for a 64-bit server only if you plan to deploy 64-bit apps on it. That said, servers based on Itanium 2 bring several significant benefits. For instance, this server can accommodate up to 16 GB RAM, even though the default that shipped with it was 2 GB. This provides more addressable memory to applications than the 8 GB (using some OS enhancements, otherwise 4 GB) supported by 32-bit servers. These features also make it suitable for server consolidation where this server can replace several existing 32-bit servers. Plus the rack form factor provides compatibility with your existing racks, making your solution more scalable.

File serving throughput of the SIS S450 I2 Itanium2 Server 

On the storage front, it came with two 40 GB hot-swap HDDs, but we missed having provision for adding another
HDD. This is a serious limitation as organizations may want to put at least three HDDs for a RAID-5 configuration. For uninterrupted service in case of power supply failure, it has three hot swap power supplies. For networking it has two Gigabit-LAN ports. For expandability it has three 64-bit
PCI-X slots and one external SCSI connector for connecting devices such as tape drives. For manageability, it has got baseboard-management controller, which provides manageability as long as the server is connected to power supply even if it is not running. It also comes with Intel’s Server Management software. 

Since it’s a 64-bit server, we couldn’t really check it for its raw computing power. However, we did test it for its I/O performance using the NetBench benchmark. The setup used 20 client machines to simultaneously send hundreds of thousands of file read and write requests to the server. As a result, the server managed to achieve a maximum throughput of 300 Mb per sec, which is quite impressive. However, this was slightly lower than the Acer Altos G510 server we reviewed in July 2004 (page 126), which gave 324 Mb per sec. The possible reason for this is that the SCSI controller in the Acer server had 64 MB of cache memory, which gave it the performance boost required for file serving.

File serving throughput of the Acer Altos G510 server

Next we tried to test the server for Web serving performance, using WebBench, which uses the same setup to make static and dynamic Web requests to the server. This is supposed to stress the server’s computing power. However, the dynamic test application, which is a 32-bit app, failed to execute on the 64-bit
IIS, running on the 64-bit OS. So, we couldn’t really test out the server for its Web serving performance. So, if you must run 32-bit applications on this server, then first check that it works on the server.

The Bottom Line: The price of this server is much higher than a similar 32-bit server. However, the decision to go for a 64-bit server depends upon a lot of other things. For instance, you need to first check whether a 64-bit version of your enterprise business application is available, and if it is then how cost effective it would be to shift to that.

Anoop Mangla

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