SMBs

IBM System x3400 M3 small-office server teardown

IBM System x3400 M3

IBM loaned us a System x3400 M3 test system to review, and I decided to see what was inside before firing it up. Come along as we crack open this hefty box.

According to IBM, the System x3400 M3 is designed for "small/medium businesses, large multilocation enterprises and bank branch offices."

Note: Click each image for a larger version.

Photo credit: Bill Detwiler / TechRepublic?

About

Bill Detwiler is Managing Editor of TechRepublic and Tech Pro Research and the host of Cracking Open, CNET and TechRepublic's popular online show. Prior to joining TechRepublic in 2000, Bill was an IT manager, database administrator, and desktop supp...

27 comments
sobbey
sobbey

it will be great machine for good businesses.

pritchard.bryant
pritchard.bryant

Can i use this rig for games if i get the right GPU?? looks good enough to eat. except I dont like the design scope that ibm uses on their machines quite square and bland

a_agustama
a_agustama

actually this plastic cover works like an air-tube, as airflow guide from one of the powerful fan to cool down CPU and Momory DIMM .. I think there are 4 dedicated fan available in system, 1 dedicated fan to cool down power supply, 1 dedicated fan for CPU and Memory DIMM, 1 dedicated fan for remaining system board / PCI cards, 1 dedicated fan for hard drive bay. Do they provide extra space for backup fan ?

Gonzalo34
Gonzalo34

Thanks for this walk through a server's guts. Those circuit boards look much familiar to me, as we design hardware like that all the time down here.

rwparks.it
rwparks.it

Reminds me of previous IBM rack mount machines, even back to the RS/6000 series. Though seeming old and klunky, this is actually really solid stuff. I'm glad they allow sections (i.e the power supply) to swing away to access the inside memory modules. Are SMBs willing to pay for solid klunky when sleek snazzy (potentially unreliable) appliances are cheaply available? Even more-so when technology becomes obsolete in just a few weeks.

bugsfix
bugsfix

Great write up, however I have to agree that there is nothing to amazing about this machine

DNSB
DNSB

You'd need to add both sound and video interfaces for most games. Any server is not a good choice for gaming, IMNSHO. You'd be better off spending your money on a system designed for home/office use. If nothing else, the price of a consumer system with equivalent performance is going to be much lower. Do you really need a gaming system that is designed to run 24/365? As for the square and bland looks, the system is intended to be installed in a locked room where few people will ever see it. As the first rule of security states, if you don't have physical security, you don't have security.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

These things don't have those either because they are mostly designed to run [b]Headless[/b] Just stick them in a rack turn on and forget till the OS installed needs attention. For what they are designed to do they are fantastic. Looks isn't one of them however though in my opinion I like their looks far more than some of the [b]Gaming Cases[/b] where looks are for more important than function. After all doesn't matter how good the Case looks if it creates a Hot Spot where the CPU or GPU is and causes the system to slow down is it? :D Col

andrewgauger
andrewgauger

You can buy redundant fan kit so when the fans die, there is a second fan in the same line.

andrewgauger
andrewgauger

We happen to deploy this and the x3500 all the time. It is our bread and butter. I guess that means in a word: yes.

HAL 9000
HAL 9000 moderator

They just work and are great. Looks no different except for the CPU Type Sockets to any other IBM Server that I've ever got my grooty little hands into and appears to be as robust as it's predecessors. Should still be working years after people have forgotten what a Xeon CPU is. So in answer to your question is [b]My Oath[/b] only prebuilt servers that I sell come from Big Blue as nothing else comes close to them in reliability. Col

DNSB
DNSB

Well, around here, the answer is yes. If nothing else, the dual redundant power supplies can be a lifesaver. Not to mention the ease in noticing the problem as running the machine on a single power supply runs the internal power supply fans at a level that reminds me of preparing for takeoff. For most users, reliability on their desktop is not that critical but let a server go down for a couple of minutes and you can hear the screams from Tofino to St. John's. So we tend to choose and configure our server hardware based on reliability as the most important criterion. Performance takes second place with appearance in a distant last place -- damn few people ever visit the main data center in person and even fewer visit the server closets at our remote sites.

paradoxstorm
paradoxstorm

I'll choose performance and reliability over sleek and snazzy any day.

bikingbill
bikingbill

A full-scale server and no tools required! This is designed so that hardware repairs or upgrades can be carried out quickly with minimum downtime. It may be dull to look at, but the design is first class.

Roc Riz
Roc Riz

IBM can still make THE BEST hardware! More documentation inside the cover than I have seen on some competitor's machines. Toolless design is great for upgrades/repairs. Solid free OS that comes with the unit should suffice any small or medium office, provided you have enough storage. Sure all this comes at a price, but how much are headaches worth to you?

Altotus
Altotus

Sweet box, too big for my desktop, I like the OS on a chip for a server like this but not for my desktop. A solid machine. I like it.

daniel
daniel

It is certainly powerful enough. It is not Windows it is Linux. It is powerful enough to handle 200 users without a problem, act as a webserver, mailserver, has automatic offsite backup without having to buy software or hardware, built in firewall and routing, all without any setup neccesary. The OS is less than 256 megs in size, resides on a chip and is backed up so that it can boot from the chip, or if the chip is bad, it boots from the drive, or the backup drive, no huge patches... Yeah I'd consider it powerful enough, did I mention all of that comes built in at no additional cost? for an additional cost however, it can run IP phones, video conferencing, messaging, while doing all the above mentioned. Lets see your Windows Small business server pull all that off...

davidhbrown
davidhbrown

The no-tools approach is nice; quite the contrast to some HP servers I've dealt with where they seem to add Torx screws wherever they can just to prove they're cool enough not to merely be using crosspoint/Phillips/Posidriv. Whoop dee doo. The first computer I remember being able to disassemble without tools was the Mac IIsi, though the little springy connectors for the speaker could be problematic.

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler moderator

I really liked the "toolless" chassis on the IBM System x3400 M3. It made accessing the internal hardware a snap.

abegeman
abegeman

Seems to be a lack of info on the machines software capabilities at first glance on the net... Got any links to share?

rwparks.it
rwparks.it

Does the x3400 M3 come with IBM Entitlement Support, and for how long? My experience with IBM Support has been excellent, and quite affordable during that period. Covered replacement at no extra cost with quick response. Beyond the support, though, $'s went up.

bstiff929
bstiff929

I agree that the tool-less chassis is very nice, and I would imagine that the hardware offers very good performance. I'd be interested to see how much a service contract costs for hardware replacement. While this stuff is very easy to service, it tends to cost a fortune to buy parts.

abegeman
abegeman

I was referring to Danial's post about it running a less than 256MB Linux Distro.. with built in firewall etc? Unless i have misinterpreted his comments about the server and he simply referring to installing Linux on the machine as an alternative to windows?

Bill Detwiler
Bill Detwiler moderator

If the machine's hardware meets a given piece of software's minimum/suggested requirements, it should be able to handle the application--real-world performance can vary of course. Did you have a specific piece of software in mind?