Slimline, dual processor rack servers are a popular choice for helping optimise server room floor space. However, to reduce cable-related clutter and consolidate server operations into fewer, more easily managed and maintained units, you'll find the latest Xeon MP systems have a lot to offer. In particular, the SharqServ 440 from Xinit Systems offers an impressive specification, cramming four 2.8GHz Xeon MP processors, each with 2MB of L3 cache, into a 4U rack mount server chassis. What's more, Xinit delivers it at a comparatively low price and adds good fault tolerance and expansion potential into the bargain. Though very well disguised, Intel is behind this solution as the SharqServ 440 is an SRSH4 Server Platform comprising Intel’s own chassis and SSH4 motherboard. With Intel’s Hyper-Threading technology inside, power up the system and you find eight logical processors. CPU and memory
The Intel motherboard is constructed in three parts with the main board taking up all the remaining space behind the fan assembly. The processors are mounted on a second horizontal board which is simple to remove but not so easy to replace as clearances are very tight. The memory contingent is handled by a separate vertical board which is a lot easier to remove and replace. For your money you get 2GB of PC2100 memory but, with a ServerWorks GC-HE logic chipset behind the scenes, the twelve DIMM sockets can be populated with up to 24GB. General expansion options are also good as the main board provides four 64-bit hot-plug PCI slots along with pairs of standard 64-bit and 32-bit slots as well. Management
Naturally, management is also courtesy of Intel, as the 440 is bundled with the company's server management software and comes with an IMPI 1.5 compliant baseboard controller. The action starts at the Server Management Console which searches the network for Intel servers and displays them ready for remote access. You can monitor hardware functions such as fans, enclosure temperatures and voltages from the PIC (Platform Instrumentation Control) console which provides plenty of alerting options. Employing user-definable thresholds for areas such as fan speeds or processor temperatures, PIC can send out warnings via email, pager or network broadcast while critical errors can be tied in with actions that will automatically power the server down, force a hardware rest or just restart the OS. For deeper hardware control the DPC (Direct Platform Control) utility allows you to control the server even if powered down. The baseboard controller can be reached over a serial, modem or LAN connection. Redundancy
Amalgamating server operations into fewer systems demands high levels of fault tolerance. The 440's power redundancy is particularly good, the price including a pair of 430W hot-swap power supplies. These are mounted in a cage accessible from the front panel with room for a third supply. Cooling also gets special attention with no fewer than six radial fans mounted across the centre of the chassis, all easily accessible for replacement. Even with all this air movement, overall noise levels are surprisingly low. Storage
Alongside the power bay is a second cage with room for five hot-swap SCSI hard disks. Two carriers were occupied in the review system with basic 18.4GB Ultra320 drives. RAID options are more limited as, although you can use pretty much any standard PCI controller card, no RAIDIOS (RAID I/O steering) connectors are evident on the motherboard so it can’t use Intel’s own ZCR (zero-channel RAID) cards. Xinit Systems also said it hadn’t yet conducted testing with any ZCR cards with this system. An integrated dual channel Adaptec Ultra320 chipset provides standard SCSI services but it would have been useful if the spare channel had been routed through to the rear for connecting external devices. Summary
A comparison with similar servers from other vendors shows that Xinit Systems is offering a good value package as Xeon MP processors cost considerably more than Xeon DP modules. Our main criticism is the average build quality: this isn’t an elegant chassis. Apart from that, this server offers a good specification, plenty of room to expand and high levels of fault tolerance.

OUR VERDICT

The price difference between Xeon MP and DP solutions is uncomfortably high but the former do provide the facilities to reduce the management burden along with power and network cabling requirements in large server rooms. However, being 4U high the SharqServ 440 doesn’t actually increase processing density over 1U DP rack systems, either physically or logically.