Model:  SCALEO 1900 Home Server  Manufacturer: Fujitsu-Siemens
Price: £469.99 Website: www.fujitsu-siemens-shop.co.uk
   

 

 

 13263670631 Hands On: Fujitsu Siemens SCALEO 1900 Home Server  
   

Despite the fact that we’re almost six months into the general availability of Windows Home Server, one of the most worrying statistics that must be keeping Microsoft awake at night is that HP are the only major OEM partner to have come on board with a bespoke hardware solution for WHS. Whilst discussions have been held with a widerange of potential partners, we’ve yet to see any major player competition for the MediaSmart Server – whilst we all love the product dearly, the home server category is still a very small niche.

The prospect improves this month, however, with the launch of the Fujitsu-Siemens SCALEO (note the capitals) Home Server – the German OEM have picked up Intel’s SS4200-E “Helena Island” home server reference design, and are now the second major player (no disrespect to Tranquil PC et al) to enter the home server category in Europe.

The company are releasing two models into the marketplace this year, we were sent the SCALEO 1900 Home Server, which is the top specification – the SCALEO 1500 Home Server matches it in all but storage capacity, with a single 500Gb hard drive installed rather than the 1900′s 2 x 500Gb drives. This closely matches the EX470/EX475 specification split of the HP MediaSmart Server.

So, the SCALEO is a vitally important release both for Microsoft and indeed for the Home Server category here in Europe, and we’ve been waiting for it for a while. Let’s see how it does!  

What’s in the Box?

The SCALEO Home Server is nicely packaged in a branded Fujitsu-Siemens box showing you the product and explaining its key features – apparently it’s “Built to Serve You”.

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In the box you’ll find:

  • 3 EU Power Cables (3 Pin UK, 3 Round Pin, 2 Round Pin)
  • SCALEO Home Server
  • SCALEO Home Server Client Connector and Documentation CD
  • SCALEO Home Server Client Recovery CD (mislabelled as Client Connector and Documentation CD)
  • SCALEO Home Server Server Recovery CD
  • SCALEO Home Server Getting Started Guide
  • SCALEO Home Server Operating Manual (German, English, French, Spanish, Italian Language)
  • SCALEO Home Server Warranty Guide 
  • 2 x Stands
  • Ethernet Cable
  • Hard Drive Mounting Screws

One important point to note – the second CD is referred to in the manual as the SCALEO Home Server Client Recovery CD. It appears to have been mislabelled, however as two CDs are labelled SCALEO Home Server Client Connector and Documentation CD. The Client Recovery CD is actually the CD labelled “Nr.2″ with the code FSP: 550001110.

Overall, it’s a great package, as you’d expect from a major OEM release. I’m pleased to see an Ethernet cable thrown into the pack, and whilst I only need one fo the three power cables bundled with the server, I guess it’s easier for FSC to put in all three than work out which is required for each country they’ll be shipping to. One good piece of news is that with a manual in German, English, French, Spanish, and Italian, it looks like the SCALEO will be travelling across Europe this summer. 

Aside from the CD mislabelling, there are a couple of negative points on what’s in the box – firstly, the Getting Started guide attempts to show you how to set up the home server in pictures rather than words – I have to say, it’s completely incomprehensible, so head straight to the main manual if you need instructions.

The manual itself isn’t as well presented as HP’s 100+ page behemoth. It’s all in black and white and only covers the hardware installation itself – there is no printed documentation bundled with the SCALEO about Windows Home Server itself, which I think is is a massive oversight for a debut product in a new product category. I thought the accompanying CDs may offer more support, but these just contain the standard WHS help files, which, whilst useful when using the product, are no substitution for a well written manual.

One additional niggle, all of the screenshots in the English language section of the manula are actually of the German operating system, so whilst reading the manual, referring to the screenshots is pretty much useless, unless you speak German, or wish to learn German. Hopefully these initial teething problems will be resolved in the next print run of the manual and CDs.

First Looks

I’m going to make a confession here – I’m not a huge fan at all of how this chassis looks. Whilst the initial renders of the hardware seemed to show something relatively small and cute, ever since I saw photography of this design, I realised it was actually a lot uglier in the metal. Sure, they’ve tried to curve off the corners to create a little more aesthetic appeal, and the metallic ventilation strip through the centre of the unit brings form and function together nicely, but it’s not a box to fall in love with, that’s for sure.

It basically looks like a fat video recorder – I’m not sure if it’s due to the internal layout of the hard drives, or the requirement for internal space and ventilation to keep heat and noise down, but the SCALEO Home Server does look like it could do with shedding a few pounds. Still, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so there may be some who love how it looks.

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Interestingly, the SCALEO is packaged with two brackets to form a stand, and holes are positioned so that it can be mounted horizontally or vertically, pulling off the old trick of the PlayStation 2. To my eye, the horizonal position looks most comfortable for the unit, but if shelf/floor space is an issue, it’s nice to have the choice.

 img 08391 150x150 Hands On: Fujitsu Siemens SCALEO 1900 Home Server img 08411 150x150 Hands On: Fujitsu Siemens SCALEO 1900 Home Server

Around the Back

Flip the unit around, and you’ll see that the SCALEO follows Windows Home Server’s logo requirements to the letter – it’s a headless unit, so no video connectors here, or old-school PS2 mouse and keyboard connections either. All you get is a power socket, 2 x USB 2.0 ports, and Ethernet port and 2 eSATAconnections, so you’re very well catered for when it comes to external storage connections should you want to expand storage further than the Scaleo’s 4 internal drive bays. 

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Look a little more closely at the rear labelling of the Scaleo Home Server, and whilst it may try to tell you it was built in Germany by Fujitsu-Siemens, the SS-4200E coding shows that this hardware is indeed the Intel Storage Server SS4200-E reference design.

Interestingly, there are three separate fans on the rear of the unit – it’s clear that the designers were very concerned about heat build up in the chassis, as three fans (two near the hard drives, one for the power supply), combined with a punched metallic ventilation strip reaching around three sides of the unit seems a bit excessive. Running with up to 4 hard drives internally however may cause a large heat build up, which needs to be dissipated. The fans themselves aren’t too noisy, but the Scaleo is certainly audible in operation.

Around the Front

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The front too is a pretty minimalist affair, with a further two USB 2.0 ports, drive, network access and power lights, and a power button. Someone has also stuck a rather low quality Windows logo stick on the right hand sideof the unit, which I have to say, looks pretty tacky. You’ll want to peel it off, as it cheapens the look of the unit. On initial power up and server installation, the power button flashes on and off, when it goes solid blue, you know the server is ready to be configured. 4 blue LEDs arranged diagonally around the power button to denote each installed hard drive – in all, it’s no fuss, no nonsense and does the job nicely.

Under the Hood

It’s only when you open up the Scaleo’s case that things really start to get interesting. Firstly, let’s talk about tooless entry. As part of the Windows Home Server logo requirements, Microsoft mandate tooless entry to the home server to allow easy upgrading (particularly storage upgrades). HP, Chenbro et al achieve this through a series of drive trays which pull out from the main chassis. Not Fujitsu-Siemens, however. Access to the chassis’ interior is via two knurled screws (i.e. you can twist them easily with thumb and fingers, which then spring back to allow you to pull back the lid of the chassis. Then things get very interesting.

One of the main criticisms I have of HP’s MediaSmart Server is that it’s basically designed as an appliance – it’s pretty tricky to get the case open, and you have to disassemblepretty much the whole thing if you wish to upgrade the memory or the processor. Whilst this appliance mentality is probably the right one for the intended target audience in five years time, right now, the early adopter enthusiast marketwill want to crack the thing open and upgrade the hardware. HP unfortunately frustrate this desire with the design of the HP MediaSmartServer (Okay, many of you have upgraded your HP MSS systems, but it wasn’t the most straightforward upgrade, was it).

Possibly the most unique hardware feature of the Scaleo Home Server (aside from the two eSATA ports on the back) is it’s unique internal design. Four drive bays  are located horizontally across the width of the  Home Server’s chassis. Tow to the left, two to the right – each of these bays is accessible by turning another knurled screw, flipping open the drive caddy, slotting in the hard drive, and attaching the SATA cable. That’s not the cool bit, though. What’s cool is that the drive bays attach to a central hinged spine, and therefore can be flipped up in the air to allow access to the unit’s motherboard – which gives you full and free access to the memory, BIOS battery, even the 256Mb Flash ROM unit which is used when the server is rebooted into recovery mode. Simple though it may be, it’s a great piece of engineering which allows the enthusiast to take the base unit, and easily customise it to their needs. Great work Fujistu-Siemens (actually, great work Intel) and HP, take note for your future chassis designs.

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Tale of the Tape

Let’s compare the Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo Home Server with the HP MediaSmart Server.

MS Recommended Spec  HP MediaSmart Server EX475  Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo Home Server 1900 Winner
     
64-bit Compatible Intel Pentium 4, AMD x64 or newer AMD 1.8 Ghz 64-bit Sempron 3400+ processor Intel Celeron 420 1.6GHz

Tie

       
Memory      
512Mb  512Mb DDR2 DRAM   512Mb DDR2 DRAM

 Tie

       
Storage      
2 x Internal with a 300Gb primary hard drive 2 x 500Gb Seagate Barracuda 7200 (ST2500063)  2 x 500Gb Seagate Barracuda 7200

 Tie

       
Network       
100 Mbps Ethernet or faster SiS191 Gigabit LAN  Intel Gigabit LAN

Tie 

       
USB 2.0      
 N/A  4 (1 x front, 3 x rear)  4 (2 x Front, 2 x Rear)  Tie
       
 eSATA      
 N/A  1 (Rear)  2 (Rear)  Scaleo
       
 Power Consumption      
 N/A 99W (With Four Drives (Full Load)) 80W (With Four Drives (Full Load))  Scaleo
       
 Dimensions      
 N/A  249 x 140 x 234 (H x W x D) 122 x 406 x 336mm (H x W x D)  HP

It’s fair to say that the hardware specifications of the Scaleo and the HP MediaSmart Server are very similar (probably deliberately so). Neither processor will set the world on fire, but are good enough for file serving, and Windows Home Server’s in-box functionality, although if you’re a hardcore high definition media enthusiast, you’ll be interesting in upgrading both the processor and the memory of both machines. 512Mb appears to be the de facto standard issue on new home servers, and increasing, I’ve come to the opinion that it simply isn’t enough – 512Mb is fine if you want to just open the box, switch on Windows Home Server and let it do its thing. However, if you want to install add-ins, antivirus software and other services, it’s insufficent, and with the price of memory now being so low, it’s penny pinching. Let’s hope that OEMs see the light and the next revision of the home server hardware platform comes with at least 1Gb – we’ll be marking down any system that comes with just 512Mb, and that starts with the Scaleo Home Server.

Running through the rest of the specs, the two Seagate 500Gb drives bundles with the Scaleo are fine for the job, and allow you to run Windows Home Server’s Folder Duplication technology out of the box, which is an important plus. Gigabit LAN comes as standard, and you get 4 USB drives (2 front, 2 rear) and a generous 2 eSATAports for external USB hard drives, should you wish to extend your storage capacity in the future. So the Scaleo will certainly grow with your needs.

Fujitsu-Siemens are really pushing the green agenda, and the Scaleo has a better power consumption performance to the HP MediaSmart Server (based on the OEM’s own stats) with 80W of power consumed compared to the HP’s 99W, when running at full load with 4 drives on board. 

So is there really that much to separate the two in terms of hardware? Basically, it comes down to two things – the HP is a much more attractive looking, smaller unit and if your home server is going to be on show, the size and bulk of the Scaleo Home Server may be a factor in your selection. However, whilst the Scaleo comes with reduced power consumption, and an extra eSATA port it’s main pull over the HP for me is how easy it is to upgrade. A truly screwless design, with a centrally hinged set of drive bays mean that upgrading the memory and processor is a simple matter of flipping up the drives, pulling the old components out of their sockets and slotting the new components in (invalidating your warranty in the process, but the same is true of the HP MediaSmart Server). The Scaleo is definitely configured more like a standard server than a home appliance. The neatness of the HP MediaSmart comes with an upgrade headache – installing new memory or a new processor, whilst it can definitely be done, is a bigger job requiring disassembly of the whole unit to access the motherboard. It’s a home appliance through and through which, whilst fine for Windows Home Server’s target marlet(well, future target market in a few years time) slightly frustrates the digitalhome enthusiast who will want to crack the case open and upgrade various components.

So, if it’s a neat form factor you want, the HP MediaSmart Server is your choice, as long as you’re happy to put a little time aside for future hardware upgrades. If simple and easy upgrading is high on your agenda, the Scaleo is the one for you. But remember, it’s not just about the hardware – both the HP MediaSmart Server and the Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo Home Server come bundled with a range of add-ins to extend the functionality of Windows Home Server. Let’s take a look at the software.

Back in November, we were impressed with the range of add-ins that came with the HP MediaSmart Server, which include an iTunes Library aggregator and HP Photo WebShare. HP have committed to releasing a series of new add-ins to their existing customer base, including PacketVideo’s media serving software and an anti-virus package from McAfee, both of which will be available in a free update later this month. So clearly, add-ins are a key component of HP’s MediaSmart strategy.

The Scaleo Home Server comes bundled with three main add-ins – Scaleo Power Management, TwonkyMedia and an Intel Hardware Monitor. Scaleo Power Management is an excellent power management add-in that uses an Outlook-style calendar interface to allow the user to place the home server in hibernation and then wake up at particular times of the day – with the added flexibility of being able to set different times for different days.

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Fujitu-Siemens are currently making a lot of noise about how green their products are, and Scaleo Power Management allows energy-conscious users to configure their home server’s uptime to minimise their power consumption. This is certainly a topic that’s been discussed at length over in the WGS forums, so many will see it as a very positive move from Fujitsu-Siemens.

twonky1 Hands On: Fujitsu Siemens SCALEO 1900 Home Server

TwonkyMedia is a media server add-in, recently acquired by PacketVideo (who are supplying HP with the same software for a free release to HP MediaSmart Server customers in April). The software enhances Windows Home Server’s media streaming capabilities, allowing it to serve content to wider assortment of digital media receivers which may not strictly be uPnP compliant and therefore have difficulties working with Windows Home Server. A list of supported players is available here. The software also allows greater sorting options for your media files, and provides links to a series of Internet Radio stations which can be streamed to devices around the home.

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Hardware Monitor is an Intel provided add-in, which allows you to access a full list of components within your Scaleo Home Server and monitor various statistics around their condition. You’re able to monitor your CPU temperature. motherboard temperature, fan speeds and other minor statistics across your home server. I’m sure there are some people out there who spend their days gazing at these kind of stats – I’m not one of them, so this is strictly for the hardcore, but may be useful if you have a hardware issue in the future.

So, Power Management is definitely the ace in the pack and a big differentiator to the HP MediaSmart Server if you’re looking for low power consumption. We’ll have to wait and see however if Fujitsu-Siemens follow HP’s strategy of regular add-in releases for existing owners, as this is a major benefit of owning a HP MediaSmart Server.

restore1 Hands On: Fujitsu Siemens SCALEO 1900 Home Server

As with HP’s machine, Server Restore is handled through placing the Scaleo Home Server in a “restore state”, using a paperclip to depress a hidden button in the rear of the unit, whilst powering on the system. This boots the home server from a 256Mb flash ROM installed on the motherboard, and the server restore is then controlled by running the Scaleo Restore application from CD on one of your home computers across the network. The restore process takes a little while, but works successfully, with options to restore the system partition only (protecting your data), or wiping the entire system and restoring to the factory state.

The Verdict

The Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo Home Server is a very strong contender in the fledgling home server category, offering a decent specification and in Scaleo Power Management, a great add-in for the energy-conscious. It’s a little frustrating that the hardware specification is so similar to the HP MediaSmart Server, as improving the memory and processor would definitely tip me towards recommending it over the HP unit. Right now, if you judget the two on spec alone, it’s more or less a tie.

I’m not a huge fan of the system aesthetically – it looks bloated and in need of shedding a few pounds, so this is definitely worth considering if you’re going to have another box on show in your home. Certainly the HP MediaSmart Server is a more beautiful piece of kit. The Scaleo’s beauty however, definitely comes from within – the hinged drive bays (whilst adding to the size of the unit) do allow far more straightforward access to the motherboard, so swapping out memory and processor (the former you’ll probably want to do quite quickly) is very easy indeed, which for me is a big bonus against the HP MediaSmart Server.

So, if you’re looking for a home server that grabs people attention visually, there are better options available in the market from both HP and Tranquil PC. However, if your going to tuck your home server out of sight, and you’re looking for flexibility in power consumption, with easy upgradability for the future, then the Fujitsu-Siemens Scaleo Home Server is a fine choice.