SuperMicro SuperServer 8050

It holds four 550MHz Pentium III Xeon processors on a motherboard the size of an A2 paper sheet. Each Xeon processor contains from 512KB to 2MB of high-speed cache memory, as opposed to the 256KB on a standard PIIIE.

The processors share a gigabyte of RAM (maximum 16GB), and the memory banks employ an error correction capability which is not usually found on ordinary PCs. While the 550MHz processor speed may not sound like a lot these days, the critical factor in a server is not CPU speed but bandwidth - the speed at which data can be continuously shuffled into and out of the computer. Multiple data buses, as well as lots of RAM and cache memory, are more important than core speed for this kind of performance.

Since a server is only as good as the speed with which it communicates with the rest of the world, bandwidth is everything. The processors connect to peripherals through a swag of 32- and 64-bit PCI buses, giving a claimed total throughput of 930MB per second, as compared to the typical single PCI bus on a home computer at 133MBps.

Storage is through a bank of hot-swappable hard drives, connected through Ultra SCSI with a bandwidth of 160MBps. The drives can be configured as RAID (redundant array of independent disks), providing instant backups in case one disk fails.

Even the boring bits of this computer are special. Three separate, hot-pluggable power supplies keep the system running even if one fails. Where an ordinary PC may rely on one or two fans for cooling, the SuperServer 8050 has 15, and will set off an alarm if any stop working. And all of this fits into a case that's hardly bigger than a bar fridge.

SuperMicro SuperServer 8050

Price: Around $29, 950 (leasing available)Phone: (02) 9648 0888URL: www.by.com.au

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