- Review Price: £1253.50
There’s no denying Lenovo is a big name in the notebook market with our very own Riyad Emeran recently singing the praises of its latest ThinkPad X300. However, although Lenovo commands a sizeable chunk of worldwide notebook sales it wants much more and has recently been casting its gaze over the SMB server market.
It’s clear Lenovo aims to be a one-stop shop for IT services for smaller businesses – it offers desktops, workstations, notebooks and monitors, so why not do servers as well? The end result is the new ThinkServer family and on review we have the entry-level TS100 pedestal server.
Instead of producing a new range of servers, Lenovo has done a deal with IBM where it will offer single and dual socket rack and pedestal servers using IBM’s System xSeries technology. Physically, the ThinkServers are identical to their IBM equivalent but Lenovo is manufacturing them itself in China.
Lenovo aims to stand out from the likes of HP and Dell with a support offering aimed specifically at getting smaller businesses up and running with the minimum of fuss. The price includes a one-year on-site warranty but you also get free access to Lenovo’s Thinkplus Priority Support (TPS) premium service for the first 90 days.
Along with assistance with hardware problems, TPS includes 24/7 telephone support for the operating system and main applications installed on the server. You can also upgrade to a four-hour response and if you like TPS you can continue after the free period has expired. Lenovo advised us it’s gone for this approach as its research concluded that the majority of problems for smaller businesses occur during this initial period.
And so to the TS100, which is virtually identical to IBM’s X3200 M2. It won’t win any style awards but it is very solidly built and the review system includes a good specification. You get a 2.5GHz X3320 quad-core Xeon at the helm, teamed up with 2GB of 800MHz DDR2 memory which can be increased to a maximum of 8GB.
The front panel has a four-drive hot-swap bay and the price includes a 250GB 7.2K SATA drive. RAID is on the menu as the motherboard has a mini-PCI card installed in a dedicated slot which uses an LSI SATA/SAS controller and includes support for the latest dual redundant RAID-6 arrays.
Redundancy also extends to power as the server came with both hot-plug 435W supplies included. For cooling you have an active processor heatsink, a fan for the hard disk bay plus a larger one at the rear, but noise levels are low enough to be perfectly acceptable in a small office.
Lenovo’s server management package starts with its EasyStartup bootable disk which provides help with installing an operating system. Next up is the EasyUpdate Windows utility which keeps your server fully updated by watching Lenovo’s support site and applying updates at scheduled intervals.
Lenovo may have teamed up with IBM but you don’t get the latter’s smart new Systems Director software for general server management and monitoring. Instead, Lenovo has partnered with Avocent and includes its LANDesk software bundled as ThinkServer EasyManage 8. The easiest way to sum this software up is to point out that Lenovo markets it as a solution for remote monitoring of operations of each server in your datacenter.
And that makes it totally unsuitable for a small business running a single server. EasyManage requires a core server which should be dedicated to this task but should not be a domain controller and can’t be running Windows Server 2008. The core server is a monster and installing it on our test Windows Server 2003 R2 system took 90 minutes to complete.
EasyManage is really designed to manage an entire network of servers and workstations and this is where it scores better. From the core server you can run network discoveries, automatically install agents to each system and store hardware and software inventories for each one.
There’s much, much more as EasyManage offers tools for deploying operating systems and applications, license monitoring and management, plus systems monitoring and alerting. All this is accessed from a single console where you can also pick a system, remotely control it and fire up a web console to keep an eye on the status of all main hardware components.
EasyManage is clearly too much for a small business and for remote management we would recommend taking advantage of Lenovo’s ‘ThinkServer ready’ options as these include IBM’s RSA SlimLine II card. This uses a proprietary slot on the motherboard and provides a dedicated Ethernet management port for full KVM-over-IP services. This allows you to access the server with nothing more than a web browser and monitor the health of critical components, remotely control it and access the power supplies as well.
The ThinkServer TS100 offers a good hardware package which competes well on price against similar servers from HP and Dell. The EasyManage software is of absolutely no use to a small business but Lenovo’s support package will prove valuable if you’re short on staff with good IT experience.
(centre)”’EasyUpdate does what is says on the tin by automating all server updates(/centre)”’
(centre)”’Bring a good book when installing EasyManage as it takes around 90 minutes(/centre)”’
(centre)”’The main EasyManage interface provides access to a wealth of management tools(/centre)”’
(centre)”’There’s an EasyManage web console as well which provides more details on system health(/centre)”’
(centre)”’System inventory can also be accessed from the web console along with remote power controls(/centre)”’
Score in detail
Unlike other sites, we thoroughly test every product we review. We use industry standard tests in order to compare features properly. We’ll always tell you what we find. We never, ever accept money to review a product. Tell us what you think - send your emails to the Editor.