by Lyle Smith

Lenovo System x3550 M5 Server Review

The Lenovo System x3550 M5 is a 1U dual-socket server designed to handle intensive workloads in software-defined data centers. Featuring Intel's Xeon processor E5-2600 v4 product family and TruDDR4 memory (high-end DDR4 memory that meets “strict” Lenovo requirements), the x3550 M5 is designed for use in small- and medium-business use cases. It fits nicely in areas such as database, virtualization and cloud computing, infrastructure security, systems management, enterprise applications, collaboration/email, streaming media, web, and HPC. Lenovo’s focus is to keep business-critical applications and cloud deployments running safely with the x3550 M5. This cost-effective server is also built with an extensive set of systems-management tools to make deployment and maintenance easy.

Lenovo’s new server features Intel's Xeon processor E5-2600 v4 product family with up to 22-core processors, 55 MB of cache, with 2400 MHz memory speeds, and 9.6 GT/s QPI interconnect links. Moreover, with Intel’s Turbo Boost Technology, CPU can reach maximum speeds during peak workloads by allowing processor cores to run faster than the rated operating frequency--if they’re operating below power, current, and temperature specification limits.

The Lenovo System x3550 M5 is a fairly scalable device and can grow right along with your business. For example, internal storage configurations can reach upwards of 92TB in storage capacity, using 7.68TB 2.5” SSDs in a 1U rack form factor. Not only does the x3550 offer support for solid-state drives, it also offers support for up to 4TB of NVMe (2 x 2TB) storage which can add a significant boost in I/O performance. The x3550 M5 can also be configured with up to 1.5TB of memory using 64GB LRDIMMs.

Lenovo System x3550 M5 Specifications

  • Form Factor: 1U rack-mount (Machine Type 8869)
  • CPU:
    • Up to 2 x Intel Xeon processor E5-2600 v4, v3
  • Chipset: Intel C612
  • Memory
    • 24 DIMM sockets (12 DIMMs per CPU)
    • Maximum of 768GB of RDIMM or 1.5TB of LRDIMM
  • Drive Bays:         
    • Up to 12x SFF SAS/SATA hot-swap 
    • 8x SFF SAS/SATA hot-swap 
    • Up to 8x SFF SAS/SATA hot-swap + 2x SFF (NVMe) non hot-swap
    • 4x LFF SAS/SATA hot-swap 
  • Maximum Capacity:        
    • Varies on configuration but highest maximum of 92TB
  • Storage Controller:
    • 12 Gb SAS/6 Gb SATA RAID: RAID 0, 1, 10 with M1215 or M5210.
    • Optional upgrade to RAID 5, 50 is available for M1215. Optional upgrade to RAID 5, 50 is available for M5210 (zero-cache; 1 GB non-backed cache; 1 GB, 2 GB, or 4 GB flash-backed cache). Optional upgrade to RAID 6, 60 is available for M5210 (requires a cache upgrade). Optional SSD Caching and Performance Accelerator upgrades are available for M5210.
    • 12 Gb SAS/6 Gb SATA non-RAID: N2215 HBA
  • Network Interfaces        
    • 4x Integrated RJ-45 Gigabit Ethernet 1000BASE-T ports (BCM5719).
    • 1x Optional Mezzanine LOM (ML2) slot for dual-port 10 GbE cards with SFP+ or RJ-45 connectors or quad-port GbE cards with RJ-45 connectors.
    • 1x RJ-45 10/100/1000 Mb Ethernet systems management port.
  • PCI Expansion slots:
    • Up to four slots, depending on the riser cards installed. The slots are as follows:
      • Slot 1: PCIe 3.0 x16 or ML2; low profile, half-length (not present if the HDD Rear Kit is installed)
      • Slot 2: PCIe 3.0 x16 or PCIe 3.0 x8; low profile or full-height, half-length
      • Slot 3: PCIe 3.0 x16 or PCIe 3.0 x8; low profile, half-length
      • Slot 4: PCIe 3.0 x8 (dedicated for an internal storage controller)
  • Ports:   
    • Front:
      • 4x 3.5" and 10x 2.5" drive bay models: 3x USB 2.0 and 1x DB-15 video ports.
      • 8x 2.5" drive bay models: 1x USB 2.0 (standard); or 2x USB 2.0 and 1x DB-15 video ports (optional).
    • Rear: 2x USB 3.0 and 1x DB-15 video ports. Optional 1x DB-9 serial port.
    • Internal: 1x USB 2.0 port (for embedded hypervisor), 1x SD Media Adapter slot (for embedded hypervisor).
  • Cooling: Calibrated Vectored Cooling with up to seven redundant hot-swap system fans (five fans standard, two additional fans with the second processor or with the optional fan kit for models with one processor and with select adapters used); dual fan zones with N+1 fan redundancy; each fan has two motors.
  • Power Supply:
    • Up to two redundant hot-swap:
      • 550 W, 750 W, or 900 W (100-240V) 
      • 1500 W (200-240V) High Efficiency Platinum AC power supplies 
      • 750 W (200-240V) High Efficiency Titanium AC power supplies 
      • 900 W High Efficiency -48 V DC power supplies
  • Operating Systems:
    • Microsoft Windows Server 2012, 2012 R2, and 2016
    • Red Hat Enterprise Linux 6 (x64) and 7
    • SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 11 (x64) and 12
    • VMware vSphere (ESXi) 5.5, 6.0, and 6.5
  • Warranty: 3-year 
  • Physical:
    • HxWxD: 43 mm (1.7 in) x 434 mm (17.1 in) x 734 mm (28.9 in)
    • Weight Minimum configuration: 13.8 kg (30.4 lb), maximum: 19.3 kg (42.5 lb)

Design and Build

From the front, Lenovo’s new next-gen light-path diagnostics LCD display panel allows for simple servicing and fast problem resolution. Connectivity on the back panel includes 1x Ethernet port IMM2.1, 2x USB 3.0 ports, 4x 1GbE ports, and a VGA DB-15 video port. There are also 3x PCIe slots, and two 550W power supplies.

The x3550 M5 cover features a tool-less removal process, giving quick-and-easy access for upgrades and component servicing. All drives (with the exception of PCIe SSDs), redundant power supplies and fans are hot-swappable to provide availability for business-critical applications.

Once the cover has been removed, you will see a set of tightly packed components. Starting at the front are the drive bays and the systems fans (five for 1x CPU builds and seven for 2x CPU builds). Next to the fans are the DIMM slots, which surround the CPUs. The System x3550 M5 server comes standard with one processor, while the second processor can be added at an additional cost. It should be noted that the second processor must be the same model as the first one. You will also see the dedicated storage controller, the riser cards and power supply bays on the left.

As we mentioned above, the x3550 M5 supports a memory class called “TruDDR4.” This type of memory leverages a “unique signature” embedded into the DIMM, giving the server the ability to see if the memory is qualified and supported. Only the highest-quality components from “Tier 1 DRAM suppliers,” as well as memory that meets stringent requirements, will be considered TruDDR4 memory. Once authenticated by the x3550 M5 and other System X servers, specific extended memory performance features can be enabled. This creates significant performance gains. This particular Lenovo server supports up to 12 DIMMs when one processor is installed and up to 24 DIMMs when two processors are installed. Each processor has four memory channels, and there are three DIMMs per channel.

Management

The x3550 M5 shares nearly an identical management with the x3650 M5. Using the browser based GUI, users can quickly access features such as the system status, events log, and service and support, with the ability to address most of the critical features through either server management or IMM management. For a more in-depth review of the system’s management, readers are more than welcome to check out the previous review

Conclusion

The Lenovo x3550 M5 is a dual-socket 1U server designed to be powerful and flexible, especially given its diminutive size. The x3550 can sport up to 22 cores in its two Intel Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors and supports up to 1.5TB of memory. The x3550 can also pack a lot of storage into a small form factor, with a maximum capacity of 92TB (using twelve 7.68TB, 2.5-inch SSDs) in a 1U space. Lenovo states that the ideal use cases for the x3550 include database, virtualization and cloud computing, infrastructure security, systems management, enterprise applications, collaboration/email, streaming media, web, and HPC.

As with the larger M5 (the x3650), we chose to forgo our usual barrage of performance benchmarks and focused more on the management and utility of the server. Since the two share management, our feelings are the same here: the IMM is easy to use and provides users with everything they need; however, it feels a bit dated when held up to other modern management systems.

The server itself is highly customizable, giving it a broad appeal and making it work in many use cases. Fitting 12 drives in a 1U footprint is no small feat, and pushing the capacity up to 92TB is also impressive. While this server (and the other M5) wasn’t designed to be a super powerful performer, it does come with up to 22 cores and 1.5TB of memory, taking it to its max configuration. The 1U server also supports NVMe up to 4TB, which would give the overall system a quick a performance pickup.

Pros

  • Lots of versatility
  • Up to 92TB in a 1U footprint
  • Up to 22 cores and 1.5TB of RAM

Cons

  • Dated management interface

The Bottom Line

The Lenovo x3550 M5 only takes up a small amount of room, but packs quite a punch, providing plenty of capacity for a 1U server. 

Lenovo x3550 M5

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