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Dell PowerEdge R210 II: Good Things Come in Small Packages

By Paul Ferrill (Send Email)
Posted December 5, 2011


Mention the phrase rackmount server, and most people have visions of huge towers with large machines and blinking lights. While the Dell PowerEdge R210 II does have a few blinking lights, it's definitely not large. In fact, because it's a 1U device, it takes up about 1.75 inches or roughly 4.5 cm of vertical space. It's only 16 inches deep, so it doesn't require extended cabinets either.

The good news is the smaller physical size doesn't translate to reduced compute power. Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) packs the PowerEdge R210 II with the latest Intel CPUs and up to 32 GB of memory. This upgraded version of Dell's PowerEdge R210 packs some impressive performance improvements over the previous model, including a 21.93 percent SPEC CPU speed increase for integer and floating point operations and an average 22.96 percent improvement on the STREAM memory test. The R210 II also showed a 66.87 percent SPEC Power improvement, meaning this version is significantly more power-efficient than the previous model. Dell also made a concerted effort to reduce the acoustic noise that the cooling fans in the PowerEdge R210 II generated.

Hardware Options

One of the most appealing attributes of the PowerEdge R210 II is the wide range of options available. You can configure a system to meet just about any need for a small-to-medium business. CPU choices include 10 options from the Core i3-2100 family on the low end, up to the Xeon E3-1280 on the high end. Four DIMM memory slots on the motherboard support 1, 2, 4 or 8 GB DDR3 memory sticks at up to 1333 MHz bus speed. While 32GB of memory might sound like a low number for an enterprise-class server, it should be sufficient for most of the workloads targeted by the PowerEdge R210 II.

Maximum storage capacity is listed at 6 TB based on using two 3 TB drives. You have options here as well from a high-end 15K Serial Attached SCSI (SAS) down to 5.4K SATA. Internal storage mounting includes two 3.5-inch drive bays or four of the 2.5-inch variety. The higher performance drives are quite a bit more expensive than even the mid-range 7.2K SAS option, so it pays to understand the workload you intend to support and choose wisely. Options for disk controllers include a full range of PERC devices for software and hardware RAID. The PERC H800 is the highest-end controller, providing 6 Gb/s SAS performance and optional SSD cache. It has connectors to connect external SAS arrays to expand on the internal storage capacity.

The power supply front is one area where you don't have any options. For space and cost reasons, the PowerEdge R210 II has space for only a single power supply. While that might be a show stopper for some, it really should not be a deal breaker, as the reliability of the power supply used in the PowerEdge R210 II is pretty high. Physical connections include two USB ports and a VGA connector on the front panel. On the rear, there are two more USB 2.0 connectors, two Gigabit Ethernet ports, an eSATA port, a VGA connector and a serial port.

Management Options

On the management front you have the option to add Dell's iDRAC6 remote management, but it is not standard equipment as with other Dell server lines. The hardware for iDRAC6 adds cost, so Dell made it optional for those customers that don't need it. What does come standard is Dell's baseboard management controller (BMC), which implements version 1.5 of the Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI). This makes it possible to manage the device using Dell's OpenManage Server Administrator tool set.

IPMI is a standard that's been around since 1998. It provides the protocol and functionality definitions for performing any number of management and monitoring tasks. The BMC portion is a hardware function, making communication possible outside of the primary CPU and operating system. It also manages the interface to various sensors for monitoring things like fan speed, power status and operating temperature. With the combination of BMC and IPMI it's possible to perform many typical management functions.

A third option for management is Dell's OpenManage software. This set of tools is freely available on the Dell website and includes both a web-based console and monitoring component for each managed node. While Dell OpenManage is not as comprehensive as iDRAC6, it does provide basic monitoring capabilities along with the ability to perform remote system updates.

Bottom Line

The Dell PowerEdge R210 II is a worthy successor to its predecessor, delivering a highly configurable and cost-effective server suitable for just about any workload you want to throw at it. It's an ideal option for a small office or departmental server or as an edge device in any environment.

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