Thinhardware Model A1 and A2 Servers

Model A1, A2 Server

$1,999, $4,308



In a Nutshell

Rating: 4 Penguins


  • Well-engineered rackmount server for Linux data center use

  • Built with standard, well-supported off-the-shelf parts from reputable vendors

  • Three-year unconditional warranty beats virtually all others


  • Thinhardware.com isn’t as sexy a company as VA Linux, but who cares?

Review (Thin Hardware)
Sure THINg: This slim rackmount server is guaranteed to serve you well.


Model A1

  • 600 MHz Pentium IIIe

  • 10 GB EIDE hard disk

  • 128 MB RAM

  • 40x CD-ROM

  • $1,999

Model A2

  • Dual 600 MHz Pentium IIIe

  • 18 GB x2 Ultra SCSI hard disk

  • 512 MB RAM

  • 40x CD-ROM

  • $4,308

If you’re an ISP or an IT department of a major company, you’ve probably been looking at low-profile rack-mountable servers for a while. They maximize limited data-center space for mission-critical applications. Unfortunately, servers of this type tend to be on the pricey side, especially if you’re looking at 1U and 2U machines from first-tier vendors.

The situation gets more complex for rack-mountable servers that run Linux well, as many of the big-name vendors have proprietary controller chips for their video, SCSI, and network components. The only real solution has been to go to a Linux-specific vendor that uses off-the-shelf Linux compatible parts (like VA Linux, Penguin Computing, and Atipa Linux Solutions, all of which do a damn good job).

Of course, IT shops also want to know that their hardware is going to be guaranteed; this is where Linux builders like VA and Penguin fall short. Their warranties leave much to be desired unless you want to pay a premium for extended technical support. Read the fine print and you find that even these aren’t fully inclusive.

Slim Pickin’s

Submitted for your approval is Thinhardware.com. No, they’re not a Linux vendor. They don’t take out full-page ads or care about going public, and Thinhardware.com’s founder Chas Hyman doesn’t get thousands of geeks to hear his speeches at Linux trade shows. However, they do build a rock-solid rack-mountable server with quality off-the-shelf parts that runs Linux extremely well. Their servers also cost about the same as the Linux specialists’. So what’s so good about their products and services that you should give them your business?

Could the term Three-Year Unconditional Warranty have anything to do with it? We think so. According to their literature, if any of their systems fails for any reason within three years of the purchase date, they will repair or replace the unit free of charge; this includes parts, labor, and shipping charges from their headquarters. Thinhardware.com also offers hosting and rental options for their servers; this is a great option (especially for startup dot-coms) if you don’t feel like or are incapable of coughing up all that cash right away.

We looked at two of their mid-range servers, the model A1 and the model A2, which respectively fit into a 1U and 2U rack-mount chassis. The A1 features Intel’s CA810EAL desktop motherboard and uses IDE disk drives. The A2 uses the Intel L440GX high-end server motherboard and features dual Pentium IIIe processors and Ultra2 SCSI disks; this is the same off-the-shelf stuff that the more name-recognizable Linux system builders use. Both of these little powerhouses ran the latest Red Hat and Mandrake distributions like a charm, although for XFree86 support, the A1 required us to install a special X server from Intel’s homepage — no biggie. Both servers also feature solid steel cases, available in either tan or black.

Bottom Line

PC clone rackmount servers are commodities no matter who builds them. If you’re going to buy one, make sure to get one with a decent guarantee and that runs Linux properly. You can’t really go wrong with a box from Thinhardware.com.

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