Lenovo delivers a big tower server for small and mid-sized businesses with growth plans.
Fast-growing businesses looking for a tower server that can run with them will find Lenovo's ThinkServer TS460 a good partner. A bigger sibling of the ThinkServer TS150, the TS460 offers plenty of room for future expansion, some versatile storage options and, from the beginning of September (2017), support for Intel’s latest Xeon E3-1200 v6 server processors.
Considering what’s on offer, the TS460 starts from a very reasonable affordable $1,609, which includes a 3GHz Xeon E3-1220v6 processor and 8GB of DD4 memory. All models have four cores, 8MB of L3 cache and support faster 2,400MHz ECC DDR4 memory.
Design and security
The tower chassis is solidly built, and its side panel can be padlocked shut or secured with a Kensington lock. Even better, the front door can be key-locked shut which stops the side panel from being removed and also protects the power button and drive bays from wandering fingers.
A DVD-RW drive is an option, leaving one bay free for upgrades such as Lenovo's internal USB RDX cartridge or LTO-6 SAS tape backup devices. The former can be connected to the motherboard's internal USB 2 port, while the latter requires a dedicated RAID 520i card.
Plenty of USB 3 ports are provided fore and aft, and a smart security feature is each one can be individually enabled or disabled from the BIOS setup screen. You have a standard VGA port at the rear but the TS460 doesn't feature Lenovo's trademark DisplayPort connector – which is no great loss in our view.
Internally, everything is neat and tidy with easy access for upgrades and maintenance. The server offers a tool-free design, so adapter cards and most components can be added or removed without reaching for a screwdriver.
Entry-level systems have a 4-bay large-form-factor (LFF) drive cage cabled directly to the motherboard's four SATA ports. These link up with the embedded SR 121i RAID controller, which supports RAID 0, 1 and 5 arrays.
Lenovo offers a number of expansion kits, such as one that adds a second 4-bay LFF hot-swap cage. You’ll also require one of Lenovo's SAS/SATA RAID cards, with the entry-model RAID 520i supporting RAID 0, 1 and 10, and requiring an upgrade key for RAID5 and 50.
Our review system was the 8-bay hot-swap SFF SAS3 version which has its cage backplane connected to a RAID 520i PCI-Express card. This can be upgraded to 16 SFF bays, and it's possible to mix one 4-bay LFF cage with an 8-bay SFF cage for some extra storage versatility.
Also included Lenovo’s TMM (ThinkServer Management Module) which provides a dedicated network port for remote management. Its web interface offers plenty of sensor readings about critical components and controls for powering the server on or off and resetting it.
We could tie in server events and errors with its email alerting system and use options such as AD authentication to restrict access to the TMM. Overall, the TMM is nowhere near as sophisticated as HPE’s iLO or Dell's iDRAC8, but does score better for value as it includes full host and OS remote control as standard and not as an expensive upgrade.
We found more limitations when we declared the server to an xClarity management platform. It gathered an inventory of the server's hardware, but many features are unavailable from the xClarity console and include server patterns, OS deployment, firmware updates and direct remote control, plus thermal and power graphs.
Unlike Dell’s and HPE’s entry-level servers, the TS460 doesn't offer any embedded OS deployment tools either. Even so, we booted the server with the Lenovo EasyStartup disk and had Windows Server loaded and ready for action in 20 minutes.
Power, cooling and noise
The entry-level system includes a fixed 300W power supply, but a 450W hot-swap option and second redundant PSU are also available.
The E3 v6 Xeons have a lower thermal design power than their predecessors, which showed through in our power tests. In idle, we clocked the server drawing 37W, which peaked at only 52W under extreme load from the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking app.
Cooling is handled efficiently by fan modules for each drive cage, an active heatsink for the CPU and a 12cm diameter fan at the rear of the chassis. Aimed at general office use, the TS460 will be the perfect silent partner as we measured low noise levels of 45dB from one metre away.
The weakest link for the ThinkServer TS460 is its TMM module which only offers basic remote management features. If this is a key requirement, then we suggest checking out entry-level servers from Dell and HPE. However, the TS460 offers versatile storage options and plenty of room to expand at an affordable price.
This review is based on an article originally appeared at IT Pro.