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Dell AMD Server Buying Guide

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted January 12, 2012


Dell has developed the habit of refreshing its server products in batches. It generally releases updated Intel models in one batch and AMD-based servers in another. This time it's the latter, so this guide covers only the latest AMD machines from Dell (NASDAQ: DELL).

This operating basis, however, hasn't exerted any negative influence on sales. Not so long ago, Dell was struggling to catch up with Sun Microsystems in a battle for third place, well behind HP and IBM. Dell's quarterly server sales of $1.9 billion (according to Gartner), may fall far behind the big two, but it means the company now owns almost 15 percent of the server marketplace. Over the long term, then, buyers are telling Dell that it has gotten its server design largely right.

When the Gartner figures for unit volume are considered, Dell does even better. During the past couple of years, Dell has moved into the No. 2 spot behind HP. It sells more than half a million units a quarter, accounting for 22 percent of the market.

Latest AMD Servers From Dell

These latest PowerEdge servers will likely do much to reinforce Dell's gains. Making use of the AMD Opteron 6200 Processor, Dell believes its servers now outperform the competition. They vary in frequency from 1.6 Ghz to 3.3 GHz, from 4 to 16 cores, from 85 to 140 watts and 8 to 16 MB of Level 2 cache.

"All Dell PowerEdge servers based on AMD Opteron 6200 Series processors can be configured with any of these processors," said Brian Payne, executive director of platform marketing for the PowerEdge Server portfolio at Dell. "Users running workloads across a full spectrum -- from front-end web serving and collaboration to back-end database and virtualization to ultra-dense scale-out and cloud and HPC -- will enjoy higher performance and greater power efficiency."

In terms of simple math, more cores are now available than previously. As a result, Dell is noticing up to 50 percent greater performance for a wide range of applications when moving from running its servers on the Opteron 6100 Series compared to the Opteron 6200 Series.

"Many Opteron 6200 Series processors also feature AMD Turbo CORE technology that turns unused TDP (Thermal Design Power) into added clock speed, which AMD says results in up to a 500MHz frequency increase," said Payne.

TDP Power Cap technology also allows the processor to be customized according to power and workload demands, meaning users have the flexibility to set power limits without capping CPU frequencies. In addition, these new AMD chips feature C6 Power State support, which shuts down clocks and power to idle cores to help reduce power consumption at idle by up to 46 percent over Opteron 6100 Series processors.

Dell offers Opteron 6200 processors in its PowerEdge R715 and R815 rack servers, the PowerEdge M915 blade server and the high density PowerEdge C6145.

R715

The R715 is a two-socket (up to 32 processor cores), 2U rack server with up to 512GB (16 DIMM slots) RAM and up to 6TB internal storage. Hard drive options include 2.5" SATA solid state drives (SSDs), SAS (10K, 15K), nearline SAS (7.2K) and SATA (7.2K). Pricing starts at $2,228.

R815

For those seeking to save data center space, the high-density Dell PowerEdge R815 provides four processors in a 2U chassis. Dell contrasts this to the 4U designs of the HP DL580 and HPDL585. The company touts the PowerEdge M915 as the best performing 4-socket AMD-based blade server on the market. With its four Opteron 6282SE processors, it is said to outperform HP's Proliant BL685c G7 blade servers by up to 8 percent. This model comes with up to 1TB RAM, up to 6TB internal storage and a starting price of $3,748.

M915

The M915 is a four-socket full-height blade server offering up to 64 processor cores per blade (512 processor cores per chassis), up to 512GB RAM and up to 2TB storage per blade. It has a starting price of $4,520.

 

C6145

The C6145is a two times four-socket (up to 128 processor cores) rack server. It comes in a 2U form factor. That package contains up to 1TB of RAM per chassis, up to 36TB of storage. It is priced starting at $9,890.

Dell likes to compare its performance to the competitive equivalents from HP and IBM. According to Payne, the PowerEdge C6145 systems deliver unmatched performance per U compared to the HP Proliant DL980 G7 and performance per dollar compared to the IBM x3850 X.

AMD PowerEdge Use Cases

Payne offered users advice on which model to chose for which use case or workload:

  • R715 is ideal for users running smaller databases or virtualized workloads and also needing advance systems management and energy efficiency
  • R815 is ideal for users running medium-sized databases or virtualized workloads and other highly-threaded applications
  • M915 is for users needing high performance, maximum I/O scalability and best value in a reliable blade server
  • C6145 is for those running high-performance computing applications that require high core count, a lot of memory and I/O expansion, such as cloud computing solutions and ultra-dense data centers

Drew Robb is a freelance writer specializing in technology and engineering. Currently living in California, he is originally from Scotland, where he received a degree in geology and geography from the University of Strathclyde. He is the author of Server Disk Management in a Windows Environment (CRC Press).

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