A server that's worth the price

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

the servers.

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.

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