Dell’s new entry-level server may only be a single-socket system, but the PowerEdge T100 supports a choice selection of Intel processors. Small businesses looking for their first server can go for price over performance and opt for a dual-core Celeron, or splash out and consider Pentium Dual-Core, Core 2 Duo, Xeon 3100 or Xeon 3200 modules.
Prices for the T100 start at a shade over $799, and for this you get a basic 2.4GHz Pentium Dual-Core, 1GB of memory and a single 160GB hard disk. The review system costs more than twice this, but Dell kitted it out for us with a decent 2.4GHz Pentium Dual-Core E2220 processor partnered by a generous 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory. The T100 also came with 500GB of storage and a RAID controller, making for a good starter package with performance high on the agenda.
Physically the T100 is well-built, and measuring only 45cm deep is compact as well. It may be small but there’s room to grow, as the front panel has a spare 5.25in device bay below the DVD drive – so you can add an essential backup device – while the motherboard has four embedded SATA ports with three still available on the review system.
Physical security is good: the interior can be accessed only by removing the metal side panel, the large release lever on the top can be locked down, and the chassis-intrusion switch links up with the BIOS to warn if it’s been tripped. Five external USB ports are available, but you can configure the server so they’re all disabled or just the rear ones enabled. There’s also an internal locked-down USB port, and the motherboard has a TPM (trusted platform module) chip that supports the BitLocker feature of Server 2008, allowing the system volume to be encrypted and authentication for trusted boot pathways to be configured.
Internally, everything is neat and tidy, and clear access to all components makes for easy upgrades. The processor is located in the centre of the chassis and mounted by a large passive heatsink. Cooling is handled well, as the processor and heatsink are covered by a plastic shroud with a dedicated fan.
Lower down is a small drive bay with room for two hard disks and another dedicated fan. The system was supplied with a pair of 250GB Western Digital 7.2K SATA drives loaded in cold-swap carriers, and we also had the optional Dell SAS 6/iR RAID controller that brings support for stripes, mirrors and single drives to the table. If you don’t want this you can connect the drives directly to the motherboard, but the embedded controller doesn’t support RAID arrays. Even with the RAID card installed there’s room to expand internally, as the motherboard offers two more PCI Express slots and a single PCI slot.
As it’s likely to be the only server in a small business, Dell doesn’t provide any remote-management tools for the T100. Even though the OpenManage Server Manager and IT Assistant utilities are included on the bundled disc, they don’t support this server and cannot be installed on it. What you can play with is Dell’s System Build and Update utility, which can be used to boot the server for BIOS updates, running diagnostics, viewing the hardware, or for installing a new OS. The latter feature guides you through configuring the server, creating a RAID array and boot partition, and setting up network ports. To load your chosen OS, provide user details and keys first, and then put your feet up and leave the server to get on with loading it.
If you opt for an operating system, Dell can provide it pre-installed. Although not included in the price for the review system, we had Windows Small Business Server 2003 preloaded. On first access to the server it ran us through a swift install process where we entered our business details, administrative password and server name, and we were up and running in a few minutes. The only management utility provided that will run on the T100 is Dell’s Storage Manager, which provides a local management interface with plenty of operational information about the controller and all physical and logical drives.
Small offices value their peace and tranquillity, and we found the T100 to be unobtrusive during testing. Along with the processor and hard disk fans you have another in the power supply, but noise levels are so low the server is almost inaudible. Power consumption was also modest. With the OS in idle our in-line power meter reported a draw of only 73W, and with SiSoft Sandra maxing out both processor cores this rose to only 104W.
As a first server the T100 offers a flexible package that can be easily customised to suit your pocket. Remote-management features are virtually
non-existent, but it supports a good selection of processors, is well-built and its low noise levels make it well suited to small office duties.
Source: Copyright © PC Pro, Dennis Publishing