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Armed with Intel’s latest dual-core Xeon processors, IBM’s x3500 server offers organizations speedy performance and flexible internal storage and memory configuration for their mission-critical applications—all with a compact footprint.

Released in July with the new Xeon 5100 series processors (formerly code-named Woodcrest), the 5U (8.75-inch) x3500 tower server is a solid choice for remote branch locations and data centers. The x3500 vies with two-processor towers such as Dell’s PowerEdge 2900 and Hewlett-Packard’s ProLiant ML370 G5, both of which also can be configured with the Xeon 5100 processors.

Built on a new Core microarchitecture, the Xeon 5100 processor features a 4MB Level 2 cache shared between each of its cores and a 1,333MHz Dual-Independent Bus architecture. Clock speeds for the new Xeon processors, which were released in June, start at 1.6GHz and go up to 3.0GHz, with power consumption ranging from 65 watts to 85 watts.

The x3500 has a starting price of $1,592 for a bare-bones model. The $7,708 x3500 we tested was armed with two 2.6GHz Intel Xeon 5150 processors, 4GB of DDR2 (double-data-rate 2) RAM and a 73GB hard drive. Our server also came with an integrated IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) and IBM Director, IBM’s management suite. The server we tested had a total of six PCI slots (three PCI-Express, two PCI-X and one PCI), as well as hot-swap disks, power supplies and fans.

Our machine came with Microsoft’s Windows Server 2003 installed; the x3500 is also certified to run Microsoft’s Windows 2000 Server and Advanced Server; Novell’s SUSE Enterprise Linux Server 8 and 9 and NetWare 6.5; Turbolinux’s RHEL (Red Hat Enterprise Linux) 3.0; and Turbolinux Enterprise Server 8.0.

The x3500 supports eight disk bays—a large, although not uncommon, number for a pedestal server. Support for so many disk bays is particularly good for small and midsize businesses or for remote sites where IT managers don’t want to install external storage or a SAN (storage area network). The server supports both SAS (serial-attached SCSI) and SATA (Serial ATA) II hard disk drives up to 2TB.

The configuration we tested is priced slightly higher than two-socket Dell and HP servers, but the servers’ prices all come in line when you consider that the x3500 comes standard with an integrated RAID card—the ServeRAID 8k—with 256MB of cache that supports RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 out of the box. Dell and HP, on the other hand, offer RAID adapters only as an option.

The x3500 also supports RAID 6, an especially beneficial feature because it provides a higher level of reliability and one that is not yet available in all servers on the market.

When it comes to memory, the server supports up to 12 DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules) for a total of 48GB of DDR2 RAM. While the Dell PowerEdge 2900 also boasts up to 48GB of RAM, the x3500 supports faster memory (667MHz as opposed to the PowerEdge’s 533MHz DDR2 RAM).

The x3500 will be a good bet for server consolidation. With the amount of processing power and storage on the x3500, an organization could use it in conjunction with virtualization technology instead of multiple physical servers and get equal, if not better, performance from their applications. The server is certified for VMware’s ESX Server 2.5 virtualization hypervisor.

The x3500’s IBM Director management suite includes a valuable set of predictive failure-analysis tools that will allow IT managers to manage the server’s reaction in a failure.

Senior Writer Anne Chen can be reached at