If you're looking for a fast, reliable, and very upgradeable office and enterprise machine, consider the NCR S40. The NCR S40 comes in a tower case measuring about 10" wide, 26" tall, and 28" deep. It has two front doors and easy-to-see lights that show power and hard disk activity. The top door covers a built-in 3.5" floppy, a CD-ROM drive, three half-height 5.25" drive bays, and an LCD display of system status. Most computer systems don't have LCD displays, so this feature was a pleasant surprise. The bottom door opens to show six hot-swappable 3.5" Fast and Wide SCSI-2 drive bays. The bays are covered by a metal door that opens so you can easily see the status lights on the drives.
The system has a one- to four-way symmetrical multiprocessing (SMP) design. It uses Intel Pentium processors with an asynchronous processor/memory bus, dual PCI peer buses, an EISA bus, and two Fast and Wide SCSI channels. You can install up to two processor cards. Each card can have one or two 100MHz, 133MHz, or 166MHz Intel Pentium processors with 512KB cache on the single processor card or two 1MB secondary write-back caches on the dual processor card.
You can put up to four processors in one system. You can change these processor cards to upgrade to faster processors.
The system also supports fault-resilient rebooting: If one processor board fails, the system reboots and runs with the remaining processors.
The NCR S40 comes with one Error-Correcting Code (ECC) memory card that holds up to 384MB of high-speed memory. You can plug in a second ECC memory card for 768MB of memory. Each card has three memory banks that consist of four SIMM sockets. Each socket can hold a 4MB, 8MB, 16MB, or 32MB fast-page parity SIMM module. The ECC memory card detects and corrects single-bit errors in realtime. It can detect 2-bit, 3-bit, and 4-bit adjacent errors. When a multiple-bit error occurs, the system generates a nonmaskable interrupt (NMI) and halts the system to prevent data corruption.
The hot-swappable drive system's integrated Fast and Wide SCSI-2 controller handles up to six hot-pluggable 2GB or 4GB hard disks, so you can put up to 24GB of hard disk space online. If you need hardware RAID capabilities, you can buy an optional PCI Fast and Wide SCSI-2 RAID controller. My test system came with a Mylex DAC960 RAID controller.
This system was easy to set up and use: I pulled it out of the box and installed Windows NT 3.51 and NT 4.0 with no problems. In fact, the NCR S40 was one of the easiest NT installs I've completed.
I had some minor problems with the machine at first. One problem was sliding the large cover off. Because of the cover's size and because it is fastened on the back of the unit with metal screws, you have to remove the screws, use the small finger hold in the back, and pull really hard. Once I had the cover open, I liked the system's well-organized layout, the roomy space for cards, and the large fans.
The second problem was getting NT to properly recognize some of the network cards that I installed. The cause of this problem might be the network drivers and not the machine.
After resolving these problems, I used the system to compare various 100Mb-network topologies. The Lab used this system for the SQL Server performance tests (page 80) because of the need for a fast, reliable machine. The NCR S40 handled this duty very well.
You can purchase the NCR S40 system in a variety of configurations with NT or UNIX preloaded. It comes with a three-year warranty with remote or next-day onsite support, and you can upgrade to same-day, onsite service. The easy-to-use manuals and abundant software drivers that come bundled with the system are great. If you need a well-designed, reliable, expandable system with multiprocessing, hot-swappable drives, RAID capabilities, and a good warranty, consider the NCR S40.
NCR S40 Server
2 133MHz Pentium CPUs
128MB of RAM
3 4.3GB Fast and Wide drives
4X CD-ROM drive
Mylex RAID Controller
Price: $23,000 (as configured)