One attribute shared by all the blade servers we've reviewed is a high price tag. Not any more. The SilverEdge 6000TUD from Evesham.com has shifted the goalposts, with this compact 3U chassis offering an enterprise level feature set at a remarkably low price. The 6000TUD is actually a TUD-3114 from California-based Tatung, which entered the blade server market at the end of 2003 with the introduction of two low-cost systems. At 3U high, blade server chassis’ don’t get any lower than this and, despite the fact that only single Xeon blades are supported, it still manages to pack 196 processors into an industry-standard rack. At less than half the price of much of the competition you’d expect build quality to be a bit ropey but nothing could be further from the truth. The 6000TUD is as well engineered as the RLX Technologies System 600ex. Fault tolerance is also impressive as the review system came equipped with a single 1200W power supply mounted in a tray at the rear, to which you can add a redundant PSU, both hot-swappable. Two hot-swap blower fans deal efficiently with general cooling and, despite their size, are fairly quiet. The system came supplied with both a primary management blade and a switch blade but there’s room on the opposite side for a pair of secondary redundant units as well, so the chassis has no single point of failure. The management blade provides serial and 1000BaseT network ports for local and remote management while the switch blade consolidates the Gigabit server blade ports down to three external 1000BaseT connections. Three more internal network connections link to both management modules, and the secondary switch blade, so you can easily separate management and network traffic. The price for the review unit includes three server blades, and extra modules with the same configuration cost £1,099 each. Two drawbacks mar this rosy picture. First, the server blades in this compact chassis are too small to support dual Xeon processors and second, storage options are more limited than much of the competition. The single 2GHz Xeon processor sits at the front underneath a mighty passive heatsink and a pair of DIMM sockets reside further back. Each is occupied by 512MB of PC2100 ECC memory but the Intel E7501 chipset supports a maximum of 4GB so there’s plenty of room to expand. Storage is handled by a single 30GB 2.5in. low-profile hard disk mounted at the rear but you’ve run out of space now, as there’s no room for a second drive. The two internal Gigabit ports are linked separately to each switch blade, while a small KVM port at the front of each module provides local access via the supplied cable, which can also be hot-swapped. Blade servers need facilities for OS deployment, management and monitoring and we found the bundled ManageSite software provides plenty of these essential tools. Once you’ve assigned an IP address to the primary management module, and external network ports, via a CLI session, you can access the system remotely. You can easily create and deploy OS images to selected servers either manually, or at allotted times, using the task scheduler. The main interface is well designed and allows servers to be placed into logical groups based on location, installed software or ownership. Hardware details on all components are extensive but although the switch blades support VLANs and port trunking these can only be configured from the CLI, as they don’t offer an HTTP server for browser access. Even so, you can keep a close eye on system operations or performance, while warnings can be linked to thresholds allowing critical faults to generate email or pager messages to selected users. The SilverEdge 6000TUD may not pack the same punch as much of the competition but the low price tag makes for a compelling argument in its favour. Build quality, management and expansion potential are still comparatively good making this a fine choice for smaller businesses looking to consolidate operations, ditch their pedestal servers and save on floor space.

OUR VERDICT

At this low price you’d expect sacrifices but overall the 6000TUD delivers an impressive, low-profile package. Storage options are basic but, despite the lack of support for dual Xeons, processing density is actually better than IBM’s BladeCentre and HP’s ProLiant BL20 p-Class, making this well worth considering for general-purpose data centre duties.