Servers

Review: IBM System x3400 M3 Small Business Server

The IBM System x3400 M3 server is designed for small businesses, offices, and departments that require a server to handle daily transactions.

Once a business, office, department, or location reaches a certain size, a server is often required to handle the expanded number of transactions, email, marketing materials, etc. IBM systems offers a line of servers specifically designed for the small, yet growing, office. Using a large tower configuration to house their x3400 M3 line of servers, IBM builds in flexibility and scalability that any smaller operation will appreciate.

Specifications

  • Vendor: IBM Systems
  • Model: x3400 M3 7379AC1
  • RAM: 16GB actual (32GB virtual), 128GB maximum, DDR3
  • CPUs: Two Intel Xeon CPUs X5650, 2.67GHz, with 6 Cores, and 12 Logical Processors
  • Drives: IBM ServeRAID M5014 SCSI Disk Device, 600GB, hot swappable
  • Ports: Seven USB, VGA, Gigabit Ethernet
  • Display: Matrox G200eV
  • Power: Two hot swappable power supplies (conventional also available)
  • Cost: Base model - $1,400, test model - $4,000+
  • Additional vendor information
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

Who is it for?

The IBM System x3400 M3 server is designed for small businesses, offices, and departments that require a server to handle daily transactions, but don't need to deploy server racks and environmentally controlled server rooms.

What problem does it solve?

For a small business, the x3400 M3 solves the problems associated with growth and the deployment of server technology. Because the x3400 M3 is configured as a standalone tower, it can easily be deployed and reconfigured as necessary without typical server room trappings like environmental controls. This also means that the x3400 M3 is affordable for most small businesses.

Standout features

  • BIOS: The x3400 M3 replaces the old BIOS system with new software called Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI). This new system allows system administrators more flexibility in running pre-boot software and configurations, which establishes more consistent across the entire system.
  • Management: The Integrated Management Module (IMM) is a chip on the server that allows system administrators to manage the x3400 M3 server remotely independent of the operating system. With IMM, admins can run diagnostics remotely, but in a secure environment.
  • CPU Cores: Our review model shipped equipped with two Intel Xeon CPUs X5650, running at 2.67GHz. Each CPU comes with six cores, and 12 logical processors - that's a lot of computing power in one box.
  • RAM Capacity: The review unit came with 16GB of installed DDR3 RAM, but the x3400 M3 can accommodate up to 128GB of RAM. With that much potential RAM and that many CPU cores, this server can handle almost any small office's needs and grow capacity as needed.
  • Flexibility: The x3400 M3 features hot-swappable hard drives and power supplies (optional). If those parts fail, they can be swapped out without having to shut down the system. If higher capacity drives are needed, they can be installed on the fly.
  • Quiet: When we first received the IBM x3400 M3 we assumed that such large tower case with so many fans in it would be noisy. We were wrong. The server is remarkably quiet. The airflow is segregated, keeping the various heat-producing components separate, which increases efficiency and reduces the fan speed necessary to move the right amount of air. The result is a fairly quiet server. You wouldn't want it your desk necessarily, but on a desk in the corner a few feet away would be fine.
  • Toolless case: When Bill Detwiler created his photo gallery, IBM System x3400 M3 small-office server teardown, he was impressed by the toolless case. Almost all of the components that make up the server are removable and replaceable without using any tools but your bare hands.

What is wrong?

  • Size: Make no mistake; while the IBM x3400 M3 is in a tower case, it is a very large tower. The case is about 1/3 longer than a typical case and it is considerably more heavy that a desktop PC. This server is going to need a sturdy desk and a couple of people to move it.
  • Website: This is a minor quibble, and it may not matter to system administrators looking for a new server, but I find the IBM Website where you can order an x3400 M3 frustrating. The Website seems geared toward creating a contact rather than selling a server. If I am a system admin and I know what I want, I should be able to click the checkboxes and make a purchase. I should not need to call and talk to an IBM representative. Perhaps that is standard procedure that admins are used to, but it seems like a time sink to me.

Competitors

Bottom line for business

The IBM x3400 M3 server is a solid, yet relatively inexpensive, piece of engineering brilliance. The experience of IBM as manufacturer of business-oriented systems is obvious in every engineering and design decision made concerning the x3400 M3. Whether you are a small business with a single-site or satellite office of a larger organization, you will find this server to be an excellent choice, with the flexibility to meet just about any of your server needs.

User rating

Have you encountered or used the IBM System x3400 M3 server? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.

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About

Mark Kaelin is a CBS Interactive Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He is the host for the Microsoft Windows and Office blog, the Google in the Enterprise blog, the Five Apps blog and the Big Data Analytics blog.

6 comments
NickNielsen
NickNielsen

But you can't argue with the reliability. In 5 years of supporting X-series site servers, I can count the number of hardware outages on one hand.

Mark W. Kaelin
Mark W. Kaelin

What is your preferred sever vendor? How does your latest server compare to the x3400 M3 from IBM Systems?

ExEm2SS
ExEm2SS

IBM never did make decent desktop PC's, but they build excellent servers. I inherited an old IBM server from work when they were getting ready to throw it away. It was a huge, heavy, ugly beast, but it's reliability was second to none. I ran it for three years straight (in addition to the three years it previously ran as a production server), and the only time it went down was due to a power failure. It sounds like IBM is still building them to the same standards of robustness and quality. They don't build 'em pretty, but they build them to last.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

It was given to me by a friend when they upgraded their servers to blades. It's my 'toy' box. Right now, it has several different OSs installed on 12 10GB partitions over three 40GB drives.

NickNielsen
NickNielsen

The one I have is an entry-level machine with only a single 4-inch case fan and the CPU fan. It's fairly quiet for a server system, about the same as a high-end desktop. If you're asking about the X3400, it has 3 fans: two cpu fans and the case fan. It's not quiet enough to work next to on a regular basis; it would probably be like sitting in the same room with a running vacuum cleaner. A quiet vacuum cleaner, but nonetheless...

jimmychopps
jimmychopps

How loud is the machine? I'm considering using one as an ESXi host running in my cube under my desk.

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