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Gateway’s E-9220T Server

Jan 02, 20064 mins
ComputersComputers and PeripheralsLinux

Entry level server is flexible, has high availability, and is affordable.

To paraphrase an old joke, you can get cheap servers or you can get high availability servers, but you can’t get both. But Gateway has a new server line, the E-9220T, that comes close.

First, let’s agree that “high availability” means no single point of failure. With Gateway’s E-9220T you can get dual 500 watt power supplies, so if one dies the other one keeps the server running (power supplies fail more often than other components), and up to four hard disks which you can configure as RAID 5, meaning failure of any one disk won’t stop the system. Both these options fall into the high availability camp.

But to keep the price point low, Gateway had to cut some corners.  You can swap the power supplies while the system runs, for example, but not the internal disk drives, and there’s only one Ethernet port (although it is a gigabit port, handy for a server).

Starting at $599, the E-9220T family of servers includes several features that make the boxes better suited to fill the server role than your average repositioned desktop. Besides the dual power supplies, the boxes support up to 8G bytes of RAM. Most desktop units top out at 2G bytes. And both PCI slots (for compatibility) and PCI Express slots (for performance) are supported. The latter features come standard, but the dual power supply adds $199 to the cost.

Four disk drive slots are not unheard of in low-end servers, but the E-9220T also has four Serial ATA (SATA) ports on the motherboard. Four 250G byte SATA drives add $700 retail to the cost. Four 500G-byte SATA drives double your storage, but the price climbs because the high capacity SATA drives cost so much (add $1,700). SCSI drives are supported, but available drives top out at 300G bytes. Four 500G byte SATA disks configured as one giant volume means you can have 2T bytes inside one server.

Processor choices abound. You can keep the budget tight and put in Celeron processor(s), or tune it up with Pentium Extreme Edition processor(s). I say “processors” plural because you can have two. My test unit has two Pentiums running at 2.80 GHz and sprints through operations quite quickly.

This brings us to applications, and why people buy such servers. The Gateway box came with Microsoft Small Business Server 2003 pre-installed. People tend to buy servers to keep their e-mail,  file and Web servers running at all times, and the Microsoft software includes all of these server functions.

Dell rules the small server market as much as anyone, and they don’t yet have a server that matches the specifications of this Gateway unit. Comparable Dell servers start a little cheaper ($499), but don’t include dual power supplies and can’t support more than 4G bytes of RAM. If you understand how much money you lose when your servers are down, the extra cost of the Gateway to keep the server running will more than be saved by avoiding a single hour of downtime.

One thing Dell offers is a choice of operating systems. Dell can pre-load Microsoft server operating systems, of course, but also offers Red Hat and SuSE Linux server. Gateway doesn’t, but at least you can buy the Gateway without an operating system and roll your own.

Another good feature for future maintenance is Gateway’s “tool-less” case design which lets you take the side off and get to components without using a screwdriver. Large fans move plenty of air but do so much more quietly than I expected. Some servers sound like helicopters, but this one is as quiet, or more, than my newest desktop.

Kudos to Gateway for making so many server-specific features available at an affordable price. The final nice touch? Gateway offers a 90 day “no questions asked” money back refund policy.