Server Snapshots: PowerEdge 6950

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Apr 16, 2007

Dell was the last of the big OEMs to adopt Opteron processors. It ended its Intel-only exclusivity when it introduced two new models, one of which was the PowerEdge 6950. These servers come with a minimum of two and a maximum of four dual-core AMD Opteron 8200 series processors at up to 2.8GHz.

Dell may have been late to board the Opteron bus, but it rode it to its sweet spot. The highly configurable PowerEdge 6950 can contain up to four dual-core processors and 64GB of memory.

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"Dell introduced the 6950 into a segment where AMD has had a strong track record, the 4-socket space," says Jed Scaramella, an analyst for IDC of Framingham, Mass. "This is an area where historically Dell has not fared as well compared with other competitors."

This sector of the market, however, can be a profitable zone. According to IDC, it may represent only about 5 percent of x86 shipments, but it generates around 20 percent of x86 factory revenue.

Although this is the end of Dell's exclusive relationship with Intel, the 6950 does not compete with an Intel-based machine within the Dell portfolio.

"For now this move appears to avoid direct competition between Intel and AMD within Dell's server line, an arrangement that should maintain Dell and Intel's relationship," says Scaramella. "But if Dell expands its Opteron line in the future, it will face the challenge of balancing both processor brands."

The Dell PowerEdge 6950 has a minimum of 2GB and a maximum of 64GB of memory. According to David Lord, a spokesperson for the Dell Product Group, this 4U quad-socket server consumes up to 20 percent less power than the previous generation of quad-socket PowerEdge servers.

He says the 6950 is one of Dell's ninth-generation PowerEdge servers. Enhancements to this generation include a programmable LCD that enables rapid visual diagnosis of server faults, standardized color coding and cabling, a draw-latch design for tool-less access to server components, a TCP/IP Offload Engine, which helps reduce traffic on a host processor, and improved handling of virtualized workloads, such as VMware ESX Server, Microsoft Virtual Server or Xen.

The server runs several varieties of Windows Server 2003 as well as Red Hat and SUSE Linux. It also comes with an array of management features. An integrated Base Management Controller (BMC) with Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) 2.0 allows server managers to use tools like OpenManage or other IPMI-compliant management tools.

"The BMC is responsible for monitoring the health of the server and components associated with the system board of the server," says Lord. "Administrative users can use the controller for complete control of the server before, during and after the operating system is installed and running, providing remote control and potentially improving productivity."

In addition, the Dell PowerEdge 6950 has a wealth of storage options. Internally, this machine can contain up to 1.5 TB of storage when it is configured with five 300GB 3.5 inch SAS hard drives running at 10,000 rpm. At that speed, customers can have 73GB, 146GB or 300GB hard drives. For faster drives (15K rpm), 36GB, 73GB and 146GB hard drives are available.

Externally, Lord says this Dell server integrates well with such systems as the Dell PowerVault NX1950 Unified Storage Solution, the PowerVault MD3000 Modular Disk Storage Array and the PowerVault MD1000 SAS external storage system. For external backup, he recommends: libraries, such as the PowerVault ML6000 modular tape libraries, and PowerVault TL2000 and TL4000 compact tape libraries; autoloaders like the PowerVault 124T Autoloader; or single drives, such as the PowerVault RD1000 removable disk drive, PowerVault LTO tape drives or rackable tape drives.

The PowerEdge 6950's main competitors are the HP ProLiant DL585 G1 and DL580 G4. According to Lord, the 6950 leads them in terms of price/performance. He cites a record TPC-H benchmark score recorded in October 2006 where a 6950 running Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Microsoft SQL Server 2005.

Dell partners with VMware, Microsoft and Xen to provide customers with virtualization solutions. It also offers a Virtualization Readiness Assessment service. Automated discovery tools are used, as well as on-site interviews with key personnel, to determine current and future systems requirements. Server consolidation is included within this assessment, which is laid out in terms of return on investment (ROI).

"Assessments are designed to help customers make informed decisions to maximize the benefits of virtualization in their unique environments," says Lord. "At the conclusion of the assessment phase, Dell experts will have identified the full scope of solution option and will provide recommendations for maximizing value."

Multiple Configurations

Lord says that this 4U server can be configured in many ways. At the entry level, for example, two dual-core AMD Opteron 8212 processors and 2GB 667MHz DDR2 memory along with 1 X 36GB SAS hot plug hard drive and three years of basic support is priced at $5,899.

"This entry-level configuration is for price-conscious customers who want the processing power and scalability of a 4-socket server, with plenty of headroom for future workload growth and I/O expansion," says Lord. "This general-purpose server can be used for a wide range of applications."

Alternatively, four dual-core AMD Opteron 8220SE processors with 16GB 667MHz DDR2 memory, 3 X 146GB SAS hot plug hard drives and three years of Gold Service Support costs $18,772.

"This typical 4-socket server is good for medium sized businesses and enterprise customers who need a powerful 4-processor system, complete with expanded I/O capabilities (Ethernet and Fiber Channel) and internal RAID array storage," says Lord. "It is an ideal system for database applications, messaging, and virtualization."

IDC's Scaramella agrees. To Lord's list above, he says the PowerEdge 6950 is good for server consolidation and migration projects.

"The PowerEdge 6950 is targeted at higher-end workloads that require increased levels of computing along with improved performance per watt," says Scaramella.

PowerEdge 6950 Close Up

Name PowerEdge 6950
Photo, courtesy of Dell
Vendor Dell
Platform x86
Dimensions Height: 6.8", Width: 17.6", Depth: 27.6", Weight: 82 lbs maximum configuration
Processor Details Up to four dual-core AMD 8200 series processors at up to 2.8GHz (minimum two processors)
Hard Drives 3.5" SAS are available: 36, 73, 146, 300GB versions; maximum of five hard drives; less in some configurations
Operating Systems Windows Server 2003 (Standard, Enterprise, x64 Standard and x64 Enterprise), Red Hat Linux Enterprise (v4 AS and AS x86-64), and SUSE Enterprise Server 10 x86-64
Configuration Options Sample configurations:
2 X Dual Core AMD Opteron 8212 processors with 2GB 667MHz DDR2 memory, 1 X 36GB SAS hot plug hard drive with ^46PowerEdge47^ drive controller, internal CD-ROM, dual embedded Broadcom NetXtreme II 5708 Gigabit Ethernet NICs, dual fully redundant hot plug power supplies and 3-year Basic Service Support - $5,899
4 X Dual Core AMD Opteron 8220SE processors with 16GB 667MHz DDR2 memory, 3 X 146GB SAS hot plug hard drives with ^51PowerEdge52^ RAID controller (with battery backed cache), internal CD-ROM, dual-embedded Broadcom NetXtreme II 5708 Gigabit Ethernet NICs, added dual port Gigabit Ethernet NIC, added Fiber Channel HBA, dual fully redundant hot plug power supplies and 3-year Gold Service Support -$18,772
Availability This server is currently available
Warranty Three years

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