There will be a new chassis SC5600 & SC5650 series and the two entry boards will be SS5500HCV & SS5500BC.
I'm pretty sure these ae due at the end of Q1, if you are a registered reseller the Q1 09 product matrix is online and has the specifications of the new 5500 Xeons and assocaiated boards.
Ryan, I can help with some of your questions but not others - hopefully someone else will chime in. Many of your questions will likely need to be addressed by the manufacturer of who you will ultimately buy from
The Xeon 5400 is an excellent choice for 3d rendering and the e5420 seems to fit your budget well.
Our new next generation Nehalem products available next year will provide additional levels of performance beyond what the e5420 can deliver today. For availablility and pricing on the new products, you would need to consult with the manufacturer of your choice.
Noise: I do not know the noise specs on these two boards and would predominantly be driven by the chassis design - a question for the manufacturer. However, i would not think there would be a big difference between the 5u or 1u .. if you find out otherwise, i would like to know.
OS Support: Intel does not validate / test the client/WS OS on the server board configurations. That does not mean they can't run on the server but that we have not put it through our rigorous testing environment for that usage. You may want to check with the manufacturer to understand their guidance for the deployment model you seek.
Referring to the message from Peter about the new chassis SC5600/5650 for the SS5500 range.....
I too have an installation requirement in an office environment to the server must be quiet. I have previously used a S5000 board in a SC5299 chassis. This was extremely noisy and lasted two days before the client insisted on a replacement. I eventually put in an Antec chassis which solved that problem but caused a few others! Can anyone say that the noise level of the SC5600 or SC5650 is better than the SC5299? I can use an Antec case again if necessary, but this will also pose a few other problems.
Thanks for any recommendations.