The Lenovo ThinkServer RD210 (model 3796-2CU) that I reviewed is a dual-socket system that pairs quad-core power with a tiny 1U form factor. The test server came equipped with one Intel Xeon E5540 2.53GHz quad-core processor, 8GB of DDR3 RAM, and two 300GB 10,000rpm SATA hard drives. In its maximum configuration, the system supports a total of 128GB of RAM and up to 3TB of storage.

The ThinkServer RD210's front panel is configured quite differently from most other 1U rack-mounted units I’ve worked with. In addition to the standard two USB ports, the ThinkServer RD210 also boasts a front-mounted video port, a slim-line DVD-RW drive, a control panel with a slide-covered power button and warning light, and a unique pull-out diagnostic panel. This panel can definitely help you troubleshoot hardware errors without removing the system from the rack. If a yellow warning light indicates a system problem, you can pull out the diagnostic panel for more detailed information about the error's source. A series of lighted indicators identifies various system warning locations, such as the CPU, fan, and power supply.

The back of the ThinkServer RD210 provides two integrated 1GB network adapters, two USB ports, one integrated video adapter, one serial port, and one Integrated Management Module (IMM) port. There's room to install two additional NICs. Notably, there are no PS/2-style mouse or keyboard ports. Internally, the ThinkServer RD210 makes use of the Intel 5520 chip set, sports an integrated RAID controller, and provides two internal PCI Express (PCIe) slots for expansion: one 1×16 full-height half-length slot and one 1×16 low-profile slot. The system also has redundant hot-swap 675W power supplies.

You can purchase the ThinkServer RD210 with Windows Server 2008 or Server 2008 R2 Standard or Enterprise edition. The system can also be preloaded with Server 2008 SBS Standard, Server 2008 EBS Standard, or Server 2008 EBS Premium. As an alternative to the Windows Server OS, the unit can also come preloaded with Novell’s SLES for ThinkServer, with either Standard or Priority support. The server I tested came with Server 2008 R2 Standard Edition.

Summary
Lenovo ThinkServer RD210
PROS: 1U form factor; excellent performance; virtualization capable; quiet
CONS: No PS/2 mouse or keyboard ports
RATING: 4.5 diamonds
PRICE: $4,149 as tested
RECOMMENDATION: The Lenovo ThinkServer RD210 would be a great choice for a small to medium sized virtualization server.
CONTACT: Lenovo • 866-968-4465 • www.lenovo.com

The ThinkServer RD210 is quite light and easy to install into the rack. The server takes a surprisingly long time to power up, though, requiring up to three minutes between the initial power-on to the time the POST screen appeared. During this time, the system performs numerous self tests and diagnostic checks. After turning the unit on, I was pleasantly surprised by how quiet it was. Most 1U servers are quite loud, requiring a lot of airflow to keep the unit cool. The RD210 produced about the same noise as a floor-mounted server—which is very little. I was also pleased to find that the system fully supports virtualization and can run both Microsoft’s Hyper-V and VMware’s ESX Server. Several competing 1U units don't support hardware virtualization.

Overall, the unit’s performance was impressive. I ran up to eight active Hyper-V VMs with above-average performance—on par with that of much larger 4U systems that I've previously tested. When equipped with dual quad-core processors, the system would provide outstanding performance as a small-scale virtualization host or as a web application server.

The ThinkServer RD210 supports out-of-band management through its built-in IMM—a management controller chip that combines a service-processors feature, a video controller, and remote management. IMM lets you perform most basic systems management tasks, including system power-on and restart, system hardware monitoring, configuration of automated system restart, blue-screen capture, and boot-sequence modification.

If you’re looking for a 1U rack-mounted virtualization server, the Lenovo ThinkServer RD210 is an excellent choice. Its dual quad-core capability and support for up to 128GB of RAM deliver excellent performance and scalability in a very small form factor.