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Many vendors promote new Profusion-based 8-way servers, but less expensive 4-way systems are excellent solutions for many computing environments. This buyer's guide provides information about systems with entry-level configurations: four Pentium III Xeon processors, 512KB of Level 2 cache, and standard memory and disk subsystems. The Description column notes exceptions. Sixteen server vendors submitted pricing and product information. Dell and Data General chose not to participate because of upcoming changes in their product lines.

We expected to find 10,000rpm drives, multichannel RAID controllers, and redundant hot-swappable power supplies and fans in this server class. We were surprised to find 64-bit PCI slots and corresponding network controllers in many of the servers, including the HP NetServer LH 4, Quantex's QX7000, SAG Electronics' STF-4550 QXR, and several Compaq systems. SAG Electronics' server also uses Intel's new 840 chipset and a RAID controller that supports the new Ultra 160m SCSI specification. And the HP NetServer LH 4's RAID controller provides Intelligent Input/Output (I2O) technology support.

The servers in this buyer's guide also come in a variety of configurations. Many products are available in both rack-mount and tower configurations. If you're looking for a server with large internal storage capacity, the HP NetServer LH 4 supports up to twelve 36GB hard disks for a maximum capacity of 432GB. If you need a space-saving configuration, Compaq offers its 6400R in a compact 4U rack-mount design.

Unlike other vendors, Compaq and NEC provided information about several 8-way processor-capable systems equipped with four CPUs. Considering the focus of this guide, these systems might seem out of place. However, an 8-way server configured with four processors might be a better investment if your needs are likely to grow. The 8-way systems cost a bit more than similarly configured 4-way servers, but they frequently provide greater storage capacity and more expansion slots.

Features, performance, expansion options, and price are important considerations when you're deciding what system to buy, but manageability is just as important. So carefully consider the vendor's management features when you narrow your choices.

Buyer's Guide