Review: Lenovo RD210 Server Holds Its Ground In 1U Arena

Lenovo’s RD210 midrange server packs a management punch while using power-efficient components to keep cool while processing general-purpose workloads

Lenovo’s rack-mount ThinkServer RD210 adds Intel “Nehalem” Xeon processors and management tools to a workhorse data centre server to make it an able competitor in the tightly competitive 1U arena.

The two-socket ThinkServer RD210, which began shipping in May 2009, joins a crowded field of general-purpose servers that have been revamped to take advantage of Intel’s Xeon 5500 family of processors. As is the hallmark for servers in this class, the ThinkServer RD210 lays the groundwork for boosted RAM configurations by providing 16 DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots. More RAM enables greater virtual machine density. By marrying this greater RAM capacity to more efficient power use made possible by Intel’s processors, the RD210 becomes a cooler running, energy-sipping and quieter system compared with previous-generation Lenovo rackable servers.

As tested, the RD210 was configured with two Intel Xeon E5540 2.53GHz processors and 12GB of DDR3 1,333MHz RAM. The RD210 comes with eight drive bays, and my test unit was equipped with four 146GB 2.5-inch 15K SAS drives in a RAID 10 configuration. There are 16 DIMM slots in the chassis, normal for this size system. This means the RD210 has a current maximum configuration of 128GB of RAM (8GB DDR3 1,333MHz x 16 slots). My test system listed at $6,247 (£3,992).

The ThinkServer RD210 fits in the middle of Lenovo’s server family. On top of Energy Star 1.0 for Servers certification, the server employs 92 percent power-efficient power supplies, as well as temperature and airflow sensors that speed or reduce fan speed to cool system components. Along with the improved energy efficiency that is the hallmark of Intel Xeon 5500-based servers, the RD210 comes with extensive integrated hardware management tools.

Management Strengths

I tested the ThinkServer RD210 Model 3796 2CU, which includes both the basic and premium IMM (Integrated Management Module) at no extra charge. The IMM provided me with wide-ranging access to hardware subsystems. IT managers who are familiar with BMC (baseboard management controller) and Lenovo Remote Supervisor Adapter II will find the detailed hardware control supplied by these components in the IMM. Among other components, the IMM enabled me to track heat, airflow, disk performance and a variety of system faults. I was also able to use IMM to remotely turn the ThinkServer RD210 on and off and to use remote access tools to troubleshoot the system.

The implementation of IMM also means a much reduced role for the familiar BIOS and the rise of UEFI (Unified Extensible Firmware Interface). UEFI is an interface that is active in the preboot environment after the RD210 is turned on and before an operating system (in our case Microsoft Windows Server 2008R2) starts. Using the IMM and UEFI, I was able to see and update firmware for the RD210 and add-in cards used in the system.