A server that's worth the price
- By Patrick Marshall
- Aug 07, 2000
The performance of Micron Technology Inc.'s NetFrame 3400 server won't knock
your socks off. But the system's manageability and low price will.
The NetFrame 3400 offers the kind of expandability and redundancy that
makes it good as either a high-end workgroup server for general file and
print services or, fully decked out, as an entry-level departmental server.
Specifically, this dual-processor system offers a dual-peer PCI bus
and can accommodate up to five Ultra-3 Fast/Wide and low voltage differential
drives in a hot-swappable drive cage, and 2G of system memory. The system
can also accommodate two hot-swappable power supplies. And you can purchase
the system as a rack-mountable unit or in a midsize tower ATX case.
The unit we tested came with two 700 MHz Pentium III processors, 256M
of synchronous dynamic RAM, three IBM Corp. Mako 9.1G hard drives and a
32M Mylex Redundant Array of Independent Disks controller. The unit's list
price is $7,690, but if you want to start with the basics and work your
way up as needed, you can get a single-processor system with a single SCSI-2
hard drive and 128M of system memory for only $2,249.
The box is intelligently designed. If you need to access the motherboard,
all it takes is the removal of two thumbscrews that hold the side panel
on. It would be better if the screws didn't remove entirely because they're
easily lost. But the side panel removes easily and offers generous access.
Access to the swappable hard drives as well as to the CD-ROM and floppy
drives is through a lockable front panel. The removable drives are additionally
protected by a locked screen that is, alas, a bit awkward to remove and
replace. If you find yourself frequently replacing drives, you may just
want to leave the screen off.
What makes the NetFrame 3400 really stand out, however, is the system's
management features. The server offers surprisingly strong monitoring and
security features for a workgroup server at this price.
Micron's Baseboard Management Controller (BMC) — which remains operational
even if the server is turned off, so long as it is plugged in — monitors
and logs server events, including temperature, voltage irregularities, fan
failures and the like. The NetFrame 3400 integrates nicely with enterprise
management packages such as Hewlett-Packard Co.'s OpenView, Computer Associates
International Inc.'s Unicenter, Tivoli Systems Inc.'s Tivoli Management
Environment and Intel Corp.'s Landesk Server Manager.
The NetFrame 3400 also supports remote server management through the
Emergency Management Port.
The NetFrame 3400's security measures are also strong and flexible.
Secure mode can be toggled on or off, and when it's on, BMC prevents reset
operations by users. You can also configure the server to automatically
lock the keyboard and mouse if the front panel is opened and to send an
alert if a front panel button is pushed.
The NetFrame 3400 didn't turn in numbers quite as good as we expected,
given its dual processors, the amount of installed memory and its 10,000
revolutions per minute hard drive. To measure the NetFrame 3400's performance,
we ran BlueCurve Inc.'s Dynameasure/File Professional Edition 2.0, a benchmark
that simulates users working on networked clients and servers. We found
that the NetFrame 3400's performance was high with a dozen or so clients,
but dropped off noticeably when 20 or more clients were making demands on
Despite the NetFrame 3400's middle-of-the-road performance on our benchmarks,
the unit represents a good value, thanks to its low price, strong manageability
and security features, and the intelligent design of its case.