Compact and powerful

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Vendors manufacture 1U (1.75") rack-mount servers to satisfy the needs of organizations that have limited physical space. ISPs, application service providers (ASPs), and corporate data centers are likely to need the manageability and space conservation that ultrathin servers provide. Smaller IT organizations can also start to incorporate 1U rack-mount servers into roles that larger pieces of hardware currently occupy. For example, in most environments a properly equipped 1U rack-mount server can function as a domain controller (DC), DHCP server, DNS server, or gateway. The type of 1U rack-mount server you purchase for your organization will depend on how you plan to use it.

Hardware Considerations
To analyze hardware requirements for a 1U rack-mount server, you need to use the same approach you use for a standard server. Consider your current and future expandability needs, and buy appropriately.

The new system should have adequate CPU, RAM, and storage capacity and include floppy and CD-ROM drives if you will need both. If you are concerned about disk performance, look for servers with an embedded Ultra 160 SCSI controller or, if your environment requires one, an embedded RAID controller. Many, but not all, 1U rack-mount servers come with dual embedded 10/100MB NICs. You should also verify that your organization's network boot and Wake-on-LAN strategies support the NICs. Most 1U servers offer standard PS/2-style serial and USB ports and one or two PCI slots for expansion.

Different vendors offer different cooling fan implementations. If the server will be in a non-temperature-controlled environment, verify with the vendor that the unit's internal cooling is adequate.

Manageability
Many vendors offer solutions to assist with installation, deployment, and manageability of 1U rack-mount servers. If you plan to implement a number of units, investigate different vendors' solutions.

Cable-management options can simplify installation and reduce the number of cables necessary to connect a rack of servers. Some servers come with sophisticated deployment tools to help you install the OS and your applications. If you plan to deploy many 1U servers, choose a vendor that offers such tools. Some units come with integrated Web-based management or with systems management tools based on vendor-specific management frameworks. To determine what you'll need, consider the physical location of your servers and any management tools you already have.

Upgradeability
At some point in a server's life cycle, you must choose whether to upgrade server components or replace the entire box. If you intend to upgrade components, plan accordingly. For example, if you plan to add a second processor to a dual-CPU system in the future, find out in advance whether you can use an off-the-shelf part or whether you must purchase a vendor-specific module. The same goes for disk drives and RAM.

Serviceability
Choose a reliable vendor with service offerings that meet your organization's needs. Find out from the vendor how easily you can upgrade or replace individual components. Features such as removable drives, sliding rails, and hinged lids with thumbscrews can make maintenance much easier.