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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

For the "too darn busy", Lenovo offers ready-to-go installation of both hypervisors, and also bare-metal operating systems, or a combination of the two as mentioned, but we found it trivial to install various Microsoft, Linux, and hypervisor operating systems — except that the server is delivered with a UEFI BIOS, which must be updated (took two minutes) to permit non-UEFI operating systems and hypervisors to work. Our preloads and installs were breathtakingly drama-free. We like that; a generic label sometimes has its benefits in drama reduction.

The offerings one could obtain from Lenovo include a Top 6 List of hypervisors and server-focused offerings. Windows server editions ranging from 2003- to 2012R2 are available, as might be expected, but also VMware in varying gradients, as well as Citrix Xen, SUSE Linux.

The unit we tested had 6 TB of fast drives, and a healthy processor. Trouble was, it arrived with only two Ethernet jacks, and one additional for management. The basic IO is therefore, scrawny. We tested the downloadable or vendor-obtained ISOs for each alternative Lenovo offers, and installed them gleefully.

The RD-440 platform in the single quad-core configuration tested well under LMBench3 but not startlingly so, and results were in the margin of error for other Intel quad core E5-2400v2 CPUs we tested. The 7200rpm SATA-300 Western Digital drives, however, had a bit faster combination read/write speed than other SATA-300 drives. We expect faster drive options might be highly desirable, if more expensive.

Internal storage can consist of nearly any current rational choice, ranging from six 1TB SSD drives, through SAS, SATA, all with increasing per-server storage choices. Storage density rises as one moves away from SSDs through SAS, then SATA drives, but then the speeds start to slacken with density. Some combinations, as mentioned, obviate the CD/DVD drive, which is unlikely to ruffle feathers for most as CD/DVD drives become a less-frequent source of initial program load, or subsequent payload.

Like the previous ThinkServer tested, the RD440 allows BIOS controls to render various RAID configurations, depending on the type and quantity of drives that are ordered with the unit, or subsequently installed. It's easy to choose chapter-and-verse for the configuration, and even for the type of operating system/hypervisor, although we couldn't extensively test this.

The generic version of the Lenovo RD440 satisfies many needs at a bargain basement price, but if you want fries or cheese with that, expect the price to go up, of course. Our testing proved it's not a barn burner or a slouch. It can hold up to 192GB of memory, along with plentiful disk upgrade options (although we could find no way to mix the options), and but one CPU option upping the max core count to eight.


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