The power of one chip

The power of one chip<@VM>Select one of these 28 Pentium III servers to get good performance at the right price

Unichip Pentium III servers can provide plenty of workgroup performance

By J.B. Miles

Special to GCN

When you talk about entry-level and midrange servers these days, you're often talking about multiprocessor Pentium machines running Microsoft Windows NT or Windows 2000. But there are cases in which single-processor Pentium III servers might be best.


The NetFrame 2100 from Micron Electronics comes with a 550-MHz processor, five drive bays, five PCI expansion slots and one PCI/ISA slot. It's priced at $1,767.


Scalability is key to server performance and is a big part of the appeal of multiprocessor systems. By adding more processors, memory, hard drives and storage subsystems it's fairly easy to build extra performance into multiprocessor systems. But you also can significantly boost the performance of unichip servers without adding an extra processor or two.

For this guide, I scoured vendor Web sites and online sales outlets for single-processor servers with 500-MHz or faster Pentium III CPUs, plenty of expandable RAM, one or more high-performance SCSI hard drives and a good combination of 32-bit and 64-bit PCI expansion slots. I excluded any server from this roundup if its manufacturer wouldn't specify exactly how much a base server configuration'processor, RAM, hard drives and expansion slots'would cost.

I loved what I saw. A year ago, I wouldn't have believed that I could buy a Pentium III server with a 500-MHz to 800-MHz processor, 128M or more of RAM, a 9.1G or 18.2G hard drive and a good assortment of expansion slots for less than $2,500. But most of the servers listed meet these criteria.

Six of them'Axis Systems' Metropolis GX9-S, Ion Computer Systems Inc.'s ISP1100, Micron Electronics Inc.'s NetFrame 2100, Royal Computer Inc.'s PowerServer 7080, Toshiba America Information Systems Inc.'s M500D and XTechnology Inc.'s XS2-550P3S'are priced less than $2,000.

In fairness to the companies listed in this guide, every manufacturer sets different standards for what it considers to be the base models of its various server families. This makes a direct comparison of price and features difficult.


Hewlett-Packard's 800-MHz NetServer E 800 comes with four drive bays and seven PCI expansion slots. It's priced at $2,060.


By adding another 64M memory chip, Boldata Technologies Inc.'s $1,409 CSS 1650S with 128M of RAM would still represent an excellent buy. Even if their base models included 128M of RAM and 18.2G hard drives, Compaq's ProLiant ML330, IBM's Netfinity 1000 and NEC America Inc.'s Express5800 LS2400 would still be priced competitively.

Among servers listed at or near the $3,000 mark, chances are good that they came standard with extra hard drives, a RAID controller, pre-loaded NT or Win 2000, and other niceties that are not bundled with the lower-priced models listed.

So if you check manufacturer specifications carefully, any one of the servers listed in the accompanying table could make your 'A' list, depending on your criteria. Here's what you will get if you buy one of them:

Solid CPU performance. All the servers listed include 500-MHz to 800-MHz standard (non-Xeon) Pentium III processors with 512K of Level 2 cache. The Pentium III has been through enough versions to be considered a highly dependable performer, and it is available at a lower price than the 550-MHz or 700-MHz Xeon.

Upgrading to a faster Pentium III shouldn't be a problem once higher-speed versions become available, but who can seriously quibble with an 800-MHz processing speed in a workgroup server?

Expandable memory. All the servers in this roundup come with a minimum 64M of synchronous dynamic RAM, expandable to 1G or more. For entry-level performance, 128M of RAM usually is sufficient, but you can easily upgrade to 256M, 512M or more as your requirements dictate.


SGI's 700-MHz 1200L server comes with an 18.2G Wide Ultra2 SCSI hard drive, five drive bays and two expansion slots. It's priced at $3,398.


Hard drives. SCSI hard-drive technology has evolved rapidly enough to keep pace with the demands of fast and powerful processors and memory-intensive applications. The 80-Mbps Wide Ultra2 SCSI and Ultra2 LVD SCSI are the most popular formats currently used in Pentium III servers, but the newer and faster 160-Mbps Ultra160 format is beginning to make inroads, even in lower-cost servers. Hard drives of 9.1G and 18.2G running at 7,200 rpm are currently the most popular choices.

Base server models generally are priced with one hard drive, but some come with more drives as an incentive to buyers.

All other things being equal, U-Tron's ProEXC.PH2, with a 600-MHz Pentium III, 256M of SDRAM and two 20G Wide Ultra2 SCSI drives represents a fairly good buy at $2,250. Typical servers in this category offer at least five drive bays, some or all of which may be hot-swappable.

Expansion slots. Look for a good assortment of dedicated 64-bit and 32-bit PCI slots among the devices listed. Most also come with a 16-bit ISA slot or a combination PCI/ISA slot for legacy 16-bit devices.


Build a better server
'The Pentium III processor is ideally suited for entry-level servers.

'18.2G SCSI drives running at 7,200 rpm are your best hard drive investment.

'128M of RAM is the minimum for servers.

'Protect your server with an uninterruptible power supply.

'Customize your own server online.


Configuration. All but one or two of the servers come in tower or pedestal configurations. As you would expect, a full tower configuration offers the most bay and expansion slot options; a midsize or minitower case design will have fewer.

Network connections. Network interface cards, also known as NICs or network adapters, are installed in servers to make network connections. The most popular are 10/100-Mbps Ethernet cards. Most of the servers in this roundup don't come with network adapters, but they can easily be purchased for $100 or less.

RAID. Redundant array of independent disks storage technology, by which two or more hard drives are combined into one logical drive to increase data security, isn't usually a feature of entry-level servers, but it can be. It requires the purchase of a hardware RAID controller and extra hard drives, and will add to the price of your system. In lieu of this, many low-end server users depend on software mirroring, which enables data that is recorded on one hard drive to be mirrored on another.

Tape backup. Tape backup usually is an optional feature among enterprise servers, but it is a good idea even for small servers. Tape backup systems are inherently expandable, but keep in mind that their capacities should exceed the total capacity of all the disk drives in your server.

Unichip servers lack some of the security features generally available in enterprise servers, such as RAID, disk hot-swapping, dual failover, hot-plug PCI slots, temperature sensing and redundant components.

A tape backup system could help prevent a disastrous data loss. Dozens of very scalable tape backup systems are available.

UPS. An uninterruptible power supply doesn't come with any of the servers listed. My unequivocal advice in this regard can be summed up in eight words: Get one now. Don't go home without one.

J.B. Miles of Pahoa, Hawaii, writes about communications and computers.



































































































































































































































































































VendorProductProcessor
speed
Base
memory
Hard driveDrive
bays
Expansion
slots
Price
ABS Computer
Technologies Inc.
Whittier, Calif.
562-695-8823
www.buyabs.com
Monstra WG Server800 MHz256M ECC
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
Five
hot-swap
Five PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$2,309
Acer America Corp.
San Jose, Calif.
408-432-6200
www.acer.com
Altos 500
Model AA500-9500
500 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
two ISA
$2,195
Axis Systems
Anaheim, Calif.
800-378-9014
www.axissys.com
Metropolis GX9-S650 MHz256M SDRAM18.2G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$1,699
Boldata Technologies Inc.
Fremont, Calif.
800-923-2653
www.boldata.com
CSS 1650S650 MHz64M SDRAM9.1G Ultra160
SCSI
NineFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$1,409
Compaq Computer Corp.
Houston
281-370-0670
www.compaq.com
ProLiant ML330733 MHz64M SDRAM9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
TwoSix PCI$2,286
CSS Laboratories Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
949-852-8161
www.csslabs.com
MaxPro 1100 D
Fileserver
800 MHz128M SDRAM18.2 Wide Ultra2
SCSI
11Four ISA,
five PCI,
one AGP
$3,167
Dell Computer Corp.
Austin, Texas
512-338-4400
www.dell.com
PowerEdge 1300800 MHz128M SDRAM18.2 Ultra2 LVD
SCSI
FourFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$3,260
Gateway Inc.
San Diego
800-846-4208
www.gateway.com
7210 Server800 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
18.2G Ultra160
SCSI
12 (six
hot-plug)
Six PCI,
one ISA
$2,589
Hewlett-Packard Co.
Palo Alto, Calif.
650-857-1501
www.hp.com
NetServer E 800800 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FourSeven PCI$2,060
IBM Corp.
Armonk, N.Y.
914-765-1900
www.ibm.com
Netfinity 1000
Model 847761Y
700 MHz64M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
SixSix PCI/ISA$1,644
Intergraph Federal
Systems
Huntsville, Ala.
800-747-2232
www.intergraph.com
InterServe 90700 MHz128M SDRAM18.2G Ultra160
SCSI
Four
hot-swap
Four PCI,
one PCI/ISA,
one ISA,
one AGP
$3,867
Ion Computer Systems Inc.
Hauppauge, N.Y.
631-630-0600
www.ioncomputers.com
ISP1100800 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
OptionalFour (two
hot-swap)
One PCI$1,620
Kingdom Computers
Mansfield, Pa.
570-662-7515
www.kingdomcomputers.com
Excalibur667 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
two ISA
$2,271
Micron Electronics Inc.
Nampa, Idaho
888-208-1937
www.micronpc.com
NetFrame 2100550 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
18.2 Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$1,767
MicroPro Inc.
Cleveland
800-551-1198
www.microprogov.com
NetForce T60i Server600 MHz128M SDRAM9.1G Ultra2 LVD
SCSI (three)
Five
hot-swap
Five PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$3,325
GSA
Midwest Micro
Fletcher, Ohio
937-368-2650
www.mwmicro.com
XPS-650WG Server800 MHz128M SDRAM18.2 Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$3,204
GSA
NEC America Inc.
Dallas
888-446-8632
www.nec-computers.com
Express5800
LS2400
600 MHz64M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveThree PCI,
one ISA,
one PCI/ISA
$2,207
PC Club
City of Industry, Calif.
626-913-2582
www.pcclub.com
EN992-PU2700 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveSix PCI,
one ISA
$2,099
Quantex Microsystems Inc.
Somerset, N.J.
732-563-4166
www.quantex.com
QX3000600 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
18.2 Ultra2 LVD
SCSI
EightThree PCI,
one ISA,
one PCI/ISA
$2,297
Royal Computer Inc.
City of Industry, Calif.
800-486-0008
www.goroyal.com
Power Server 7080800 MHz256M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
ThreeFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$1,849
SAG Electronics
North Andover, Mass.
978-683-0339
www.sagelec.com
STF PIII Entry Level
Server
750 MHz256M ECC/
SDRAM
18.2G Ultra160
SCSI
SixSix PCI,
one ISA
$2,035
SGI
Mountain View, Calif.
650-960-1980
www.sgi.com
1200L700 MHz128M SDRAM18.2 Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FourTwo PCI$3,398
Sys Technology Inc.
Cypress, Calif.
800-613-9963
www.sys.com
PowerNet Server600 MHz128M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI (three)
FiveSix PCI,
one ISA
$3,549
Tempest Micro
Electronics
Walnut, Calif.
909-595-0550
www.tempestmicro.com
NT Server
Model SYS01SP360
600 MHz256M SDRAM20G Ultra IDEFiveSix PCI,
one ISA
$2,128
Toshiba America
Information Systems Inc.
Irvine, Calif.
949-583-3000
www.csd.toshiba.com
M500D700 MHz256M ECC/
SDRAM
9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
SevenFive PCI$1,940
U-Tron
Fremont, Calif.
510-656-3600
www.utron.com
ProEXC.PH2
600 MHz256M SDRAM20G Wide Ultra2
SCSI (two)
FiveFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$2,250
Xi Computer Corp.
San Clemente, Calif.
949-498-0858
www.xicomputer.com
NetRAIDer LT650 MHz128M SDRAM18.2 Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$2,690
XTechnology Inc.
Warrensville Heights, Ohio
888-983-2448
www.xtechnology.com
XS2-550P3S550 MHz128M SDRAM9.1G Wide Ultra2
SCSI
FiveFive PCI,
one PCI/ISA
$1,878

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