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Lenovo's new ThinkServer: Low sticker price, lots of upgrade options

Tom Henderson | May 28, 2014
The RD 400 offers the power and flexibility of a server for the price of a high-end laptop

We tested the Lenovo RD440 as a base-unit, 2U server. We found it pretty generic on the surface, but options, including software pre-loads, increase its potential utility for volume users and especially smaller operations.

We also found that Lenovo's internal management application is getting progressively more flexible.

Lenovo's latest ThinkServer has a base price of only $1,339, which is what a high-end notebook could cost. The ThinkServer isn't going to win any style points for its looks, but most servers live behind closed doors, where any cosmetic loveliness will be all but lost on humanity, save those lucky personnel that install and service them. Aesthetics are perhaps a waste for rack-fodder.

Inside the RD440 was perhaps more of a 1U in terms of what you get for the base price, but we could fill its 2U form factor quickly with options, such as adding a CPU (another quad-core Intel Xeon E5-2400v2 processor) and then drives.

Adding the additional CPU also determines how many PCI bus slots are available. The internal space can be rapidly filled. In its most basic form, however, it's a good generic server, if with limitations largely associated with its two Ethernet ports, along with a management Gigabit Ethernet port for a total of three.

This means that the hardware-build options of the RD440 aren't vast. The short list includes possible processor, memory, and drive combinations. It's comparatively scrawny at the base price, but the price can ratchet quickly. And the storage options are considerable.

The server gets its "character" at Lenovo factory build locations. While the list of options for hardware is somewhat confined, the list of how it can arrive configured in terms of hypervisor and operating system support was almost staggering.

We had ordered ours with Windows Server 2012R2, but found that generic versions of VMware, Red Hat and Linux, as well as Citrix, spin up easily.  

Lenovo has gotten onboard the customization (and revenue) train that allows almost drop-in server profile and characterization. This increases the value of the RD440 somewhat dramatically for organizations that don't have their own provisioning methodologies, or perhaps the budgets and vendor agreements to get their server purchases rapidly productive.

Testing 2U
The server was delivered to the lab with one CPU, a quad core Xeon, along with Western Digital WD1003FBYX 7200rpm conventional removable drives (in drive frames), which connect as SATA-300 bus drives—six of them at 1 TB each in our delivered generic configuration.

Our unit also came with a CD/DVD drive, that could be potentially eliminated in certain optional drive configurations; booting from a flash drive is just as easy and potentially faster, and PxE net boot faster still.


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