System News
InfoWorld Reviews Sun Fire X2270 and X4270 Servers
Noted as Impressive Entries into the Nehalem-based Server Market
September 21, 2009,
Volume 139, Issue 4

Sun Fire X2270 and X4270 servers: the fastest x64 servers Sun has ever produced

-- Paul Venezia, InfoWorld

The Sun Fire X2270 and X4270 servers "... are the fastest x64 servers Sun has ever produced," writes Paul Venezia in his InfoWorld review. He states that both models are impressive entries into the Nehalem-based server market and would like to see them survive the acquisition of Sun by Oracle.

Venezia evaluated both servers and both had two X5570 CPUs and 24GB of DDR3 RAM. His conclusion: The Sun Fire X2270 Server would do extremely well as a front-end Web server, a small database server, or a member of a virtualization farm, with the addition of a few NICs or an HBA, he writes. It's constrained by a single power supply, a single PCIe slot, only a pair of NICs, and four disk drive bays, but the low cost (starting at $1,488.00) offsets these limitations, depending on the application.

The Sun Fire X4270 Server, Venezia continues, "is the best of both worlds, offering the 2U form factor that adds significant expansion opportunities and a wealth of local disk options. This is a shoe-in for a database server, application server, storage server, or basically anything you can throw at it. With the ability to house more than 2.3TB locally across sixteen 146GB SAS drives, four gigabit NICs, redundant power, and six expansion slots, there's little that this box can't handle."

The test Venezia subjected the pair of Sun Fire servers to was a baseline VMware test application, which is a LAMP stack packaged as a vSphere vApp with four VMs. He describes the test as designed to mimic a large, database-driven Web application, using a randomized mix of dynamic and static page delivery. It's built on four CentOS 5.3 servers: a single MySQL server built with four vCPUs and 8GB of RAM, two Web front-end servers with two vCPUs and 4GB of RAM each, and a load balancer with a single vCPU and 1GB of RAM. The Web servers run a tweaked Apache 2.2 Web server, with content mounted on an NFS share to the database server. The database server runs a highly tweaked MySQL 5.1.25 installation and exports the Web root to the front-end servers. All load balancing is handled by Nginx, running in the load balancer VM.

Venezia explains that the test is built with nine vCPUs on purpose, in order to eclipse the eight physical cores present in the servers under test. Also, the static/dynamic call ratio, though randomized, is seeded to bring all boxes to a maximum load equal to the number of vCPUs in each box. The VMs communicate across an internal vSwitch, with only the load balancer directly linking to the lab network. All load generation was driven from ab, the Apache benchmarking tool, running 100,000 requests per test pass, 20 concurrent connections.

Venezia ran two tests on the Sun Fire X2270 Server: one with the vApp running first on a single 500GB SATA drive, then another with the VMs housed on an NFS share to a SAS array run from an Adaptec Snap Server 650. The difference was noticeable and resulted in a performance increase of around 15 percent. With the single local disk against a RAID 5 array of SAS drives on the filer, this isn't surprising. In fact, applications that are more disk I/O intensive should show an even greater performance increase, he writes.

The only downsides, the review notes, with the Sun Fire X2270 Server are the two Gigabit Ethernet interfaces (rather than Sun's normal allotment of four) and the lack of a redundant power option. In many applications, a server like this will need more than two Ethernet interfaces, and redundant power is always a plus. "But for raw cost/performance, the X2270 is a very good deal," he concludes.

The Sun Fire X4270 Server, with its 2.5-inch SAS, SATA, or solid-state drives instead of 3.5-inch SATA drives, delivers 16 hot-swap drive bays in its 2U chassis. It's almost out of necessity that the X4270 also has an integrated RAID controller that can handle RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 10, and 50, according to Venezia.

The Sun Fire X4270 Server also bumps up the maximum RAM level to 144GB, using 18 DDR3 DIMM slots, and doubles the X2270's supply of Gigabit Ethernet interfaces with a total of four, Venezia notes. It also expands on the slot assortment, with six 8x PCIe 2.0 slots available.

In addition to this expansion bus, he continues, the X4270 has an internal CompactFlash slot, which makes building the X4270 into a VMware ESXi server extremely simple: Image a CompactFlash card with ESXi, slide it into the slot, and boot the server as a diskless VMware ESX host. Note that this can also be achieved with the X2270, though it requires the use of the internal USB port, not a CompactFlash slot.

Like its smaller sibling, the X4270 offers Sun's ILOM management processor and several external USB ports. Also like the X2270, the X4270 performs extremely well in the VMware tests, putting up numbers marginally better than the X2270, which performs respectably enough, as one might expect.

"Sun has been putting out extremely inexpensive, feature-rich, and solid x64 servers for quite some time," Venezia concludes. "Note to Oracle: Sun's hardware development is doing very well -- no need to make any changes."

More Information

Sun Fire X2270 Server

Sun Fire X4270 Server

Maximize the Value of Your Datacenter: White Paper: Sun Fire X4170, X4270, and X4275 Server Architecture

OpenSolaris on Sun Fire X2270 Outperforms Linux by 25%

Read More ... [ more...]



Other articles in the Server section of Volume 139, Issue 4:
  • InfoWorld Reviews Sun Fire X2270 and X4270 Servers (this article)

See all archived articles in the Server section.

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