Amdahl EnVista Frontline Server

EnVista FS works effectively as a standalone or in a cluster

Amdahl's EnVista Frontline Server is a fast, reliable server that is easily upgradeable. Amdahl, well-known for its mainframe-size systems, offers three enterprise systems to the NT market: EnVista Frontline Server (FS), EnVista FS/R, and EnVista Server Model ES. This review looks at EnVista FS, a system for datamart, groupware, and intranet applications. Amdahl sells Envista FS as a standalone system or in a cluster configuration.

EnVista FS is an excellent component in a cluster solution because it has built-in fault-tolerant features, such as two 420-watt power supplies (you can add a third power supply), error controlling and correcting memory, hot-swappable Ultra Wide SCSI-3 drive bays, and two embedded SCSI controllers to control the drive bays. These features also make EnVista FS a superb standalone system for mission-critical applications.

You can easily upgrade a standalone system to a cluster solution using Microsoft's Wolfpack, VERITAS FirstWatch, or NCR's LifeKeeper clustering solutions. In fact, EnVista FS is one of the few systems certified for Microsoft Wolfpack. (For information about clustering solutions, see Joel Sloss, "Clustering Solutions for Windows NT," June 1997.)

Performance Features
EnVista FS offers many performance features, including four 200MHz Pentium Pros (each with 512KB of cache), dual PCI buses, and dual embedded Adaptec Ultra Wide SCSI-3 adapters. Other system features include support for up to 1GB of memory, 6 PCI slots, 4 EISA slots, 12 hot-swappable drive bays, a video graphics adapter (VGA) video connector, a 3.5" floppy drive, a CD-ROM, 2 RS-232 serial ports, a printer port, a PS/2 keyboard port, and a PS/2 mouse port.

A nice-looking beige case with doors houses all these components. The 3.5" floppy and CD-ROM drives hide behind one door, and the 12 hot-swappable drive bays hide behind the other. The system I tested also included a 17" monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard.

Amdahl pre-installs Windows NT 3.51 or 4.0 and includes Intel LANDesk Server Manager in the EnVista FS package. You can get the system preconfigured from Amdahl with SQL Server, SMS Server, SNA Server, Symantec pcANYWHERE32, or Amdahl's EnVista Database Gateway (which lets you connect two existing mainframe databases).

A Solid Performer
In the past several months, I've used EnVista FS for various projects in the Windows NT Magazine Lab. The system was a solid performer. Initially, I used this system as a bundled cluster solution. Later I used it as the host for fibre channel testing. (For more information on fibre channel testing, see my article "Fibre Channel, SCSI, and You," September 1997.)

The only problem I encountered was when I installed a RAID controller on the primary PCI bus. After I installed the RAID controller, the system insisted on initializing it before initializing the embedded SCSI controllers. This insistence prevented the system from booting from its internal hard drive.

To solve this problem, I simply moved the RAID controller to the second PCI bus. A nice feature would be a BIOS option to let you control the initialization sequence of the embedded SCSI controllers and the PCI card buses.

A Thumbs UP
I was impressed with the Amdahl EnVista FS. I recommend that you give it serious consideration if you are looking for a fast, reliable server that you can easily upgrade. The price is comparable to similarly equipped systems from other vendors, and Amdahl is a reputable company.

EnVista Frontline Server
Contact: Amdahl * 800-223-2215
Price: $30,000 (includes two 4.3GB Seagate Barracuda hard drives and 512MB of memory)
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