Sun's entrance into the sub-$1000 market isn't an easy one. At the sub-$1000 level, whitebox units generally are the brand of choice for most small and medium businesses, while HPC orders get to go to the IBMs and Dells of the world based on volume. With the SunFire X2100, Sun becomes a viable alternative in both the horizontal and vertical markets. By default, the X2100 is configured best for a diskless cluster or high availability application. Once the SunFire X2100 becomes available en masse in the US, we could actually pre-configure the machine for storage and a faster processor instead, making it a very capable web server instead.

Similar to Sun's approach to the V20z and V40z, there will be several different configurations of the X2100, from Small to Extra Large. We actually have an Extra-Large configuration for testing today, which comes out to $2295. Sun tells us the Small configuration comes out to $745; although it doesn't have a hard drive or the beefiest of Opterons, $745 is a bargain for what most companies spend on blades. The Large configuration is priced at $1676. Barring any availability problems from AMD, we should see several versions of the SunFire X2100 in the future with Opteron 154 and 180 processors.

The industrial look of the SunFire X2100 is best described as the true nostalgic Sun look. A look at the front reveals the epitome of form following function.

You'll notice two forward USB ports (something new for Sun), a slim line DVD drive and two hot swappable SATA drive bays. The two hard drives can be set up for RAID 0 or 1 via the BIOS.

The rear reveals more USB ports and a serial interface. You'll also notice the complete lack of any legacy input connectors, including PS/2 keyboard and mice interfaces. The SunFire X2100 requires a USB keyboard/mouse for direct console access. The diagnostic lights on the front and back of the machine signal whether or not the machine is on/off or if there is a component failure. Since the indicator lights are featured on both sides of the server, it's easy to pick out a failed server from either side of the rack. The Aquarius weighs in just under 30lbs, so it is well suited for the included roll-out rack rails.

Also present is a half-height 1- to 8-lane PCIe expansion bay, two Gigabit Ethernet connectors and a single analog video output. The PCIe expansion is unique in the fact that the entire expansion bay is removable from the chassis when the bay cover is removed; no more scratched PCBs when replacing or installing an expansion card.

Index Taking a Look Inside
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  • allanw - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    The two hard drives can be set up for RAID 0, 1 or 0+1 via the BIOS.

    I don't get it. How do you do raid 0+1 with only two drives?
    Reply
  • Deinonych - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    You can't. RAID 0+1 requires a minimum of 4 drives. Reply
  • stephenbrooks - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    Darn. I could get two of these things for less than my current desktop PC cost. (Though without graphics card etc. of course!) Reply
  • Jmonk - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    I was stoked to read the article on the X2100 because I'm currently in the market for an entry-level small business server. Doing my homework I found that other name-brand, entry-level servers were obviously too expensive for their spec's. The Small X2100 base-model ($745, no HDD, 512MB DDR, no DVD) is priced right where I'm looking at, but the spec's are relatively weak considering that I can build an equivalent 1U server (slightly faster, Athlon 64) for $475, purchased from online retailers. If I were to move up a notch to the Medium X2100, I find myself completely out of my price range.
    So is the name-brand and the 3-year warranty worth $270 extra for a somewhat weaker machine? The often heard "save money, build it yourself" suggestion is a known misconception when it comes to desktop PC's, but I was surprised to see that it's completely feasible and worthwhile in regards to servers.
    Reply
  • Furen - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    If you know how to do build it, know how to configure it and dont mind having to deal with any incompatibilities and issues yourself then go for it and build it yourself, you will save quite a bit. Personally, I think this server is pretty well priced since it's pretested, pre-assembled, in a thermally-balanced case (not that thermals are too much of a problem with K8s right now) and a decent warranty. All possible incompatibilities have already been dealt with, it also has two nice hotswapable SATA bays, a half-height 8x PCI-E slot for possible expansion and comes preconfigured with Solaris 10 (which I like, though you may not). Reply
  • Jmonk - Wednesday, September 14, 2005 - link

    Actually, the Small X2100 doesn't come with a Solaris option without additional cost.
    But you're right that there is certainly an amount of confidence with the Sun servers that neither the admin nor the owner of the company may expect with a self-built machine.
    My main point is that desktop PC's are much more affordable than self-built - pre-testing, -assembling, -OS-loading and warranties just sweeten the deal. But why aren't servers to that point?
    Reply
  • Gholam - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    The board used is Tyan Tomcat K8E, with some components like PCI slots just not soldered in. Doesn't mean it's bad - I have a server running here on that one board and an A64 4400+, and it's an excellent machine - but c'mon, give credit where it's due :) Reply
  • Ahkorishaan - Monday, September 12, 2005 - link

    I would really like to see a price point comparison between a Sun AMD, a Dell Pentium, any IBM, and any HP. I bet it would look rather interesting. Sun is indeed coming to the fore again. Reply
  • MCSim - Tuesday, September 13, 2005 - link

    Check out the Sun's NC05Q3 webcast. They are making some comparisons there. Reply
  • Deinonych - Monday, September 12, 2005 - link

    It would have been nice to see how this server stacks up against comparable offerings from IBM, HP and Dell (even though Dell doesn't offer an AMD server). Comparing it to other Sun products is nice if you only buy Sun. Reply

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