Dell Server Buyer's Guide

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Mar 22, 2011


Since our last roundup of Dell servers the company completed a major product refresh. New processors and added intelligence are the hallmarks according to John Barnhart, Technical Marketing for Dell PowerEdge Rack and Tower Servers.

Dell's latest refresh of its server portfolio puts new processors and added intelligence front and center. The servers are available in blade, rack and tower form factors, with 17 new PowerEdge machines featuring the latest AMD Opteron 6000 and Intel Xeon 5600 series processors.

"Dell is driving intelligence into its server platforms with the availability of Lifecycle Controller, an embedded systems management application," he said. "Lifecycle Controller provides IT administrators with a single-console view of their entire IT infrastructure while performing a comprehensive set of provisioning functions including system deployment, system updates, hardware configuration and diagnostics."

Dell servers are available in blade, rack and tower form factors, with 17 new PowerEdge machines featuring the latest AMD Opteron 6000 and Intel Xeon 5600 series processors.

"Dell offers a wide range of servers to meet the needs of all sizes of businesses," said Matthew Eastwood, an analyst at IDC. "This is about enabling customers to build out agile server infrastructures that empower IT managers to be more strategic in the way they allocate and provide IT resources for a wide variety of workloads in the data center."

Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) server naming conventions used to be easy enough when the company simplified things a couple of years back. R= rack and T= tower, great. B, though, does not go with blade. For some reason, Dell's blades have the M designation. This is further complicated by the fact that the company has introduced a C-line for high-performance computing (HPC). We will cover the C line later in its own Buying Guide.

New Dell Servers

Dell provides 11 racks starting at $749. Older models, such as the PowerEdge R2970, R900 and R300, have been replaced, while others have been given a spruce-up with better processors.

The Dell PowerEdge R610, for example, is a 1U Intel based 2-socket rack server that offers the latest Westmere-EP processors. It currently holds benchmark records for SPECfp_rate and SPECint_rate, which measure single and multi-task floating-point and integer computing throughput. It is available with Intel Xeon 5500 and 5600 six-core or quad-core processors, up to 3.6 TB of hot swappable drive capacity, and up to 192 GB of memory.

"The R610 offers excellent energy efficiency when compared against many competing products including HP blades," said Barnhart. "It is perfect for customers who require rack density and large memory capacity to support a virtualized environment, but due to budget constraints or other considerations are not yet ready to invest in a Dell blade platform."

On the tower side, Dell has five machines available. They can run Windows Linux, Solaris, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer. All of the models start at $449.

Barnhart highlights the PowerEdge T410. This 2-socket tower is geared toward general business applications, small businesses and remote offices. Dell designed it for tight spaces -- it stands only 24 inches deep -- and it comes with an LCD panel for ease of monitoring and diagnostics. Dell also improved the chassis with better hard drive carriers and fans for greater reliability, quieter operation and ease of use. Dual- or quad-core Xeon 5500 and 5600 series processors, up to 64GB of RAM, PCI Express-based RAID and remote management are among some of the major features. On the system management side, it includes a Baseboard Management Controller with IPMI 2.0 and an optional upgrade to the Lifecycle Controller.

Dell now supplies a decent collection of blades, as shown in the grid below. They all fit inside the PowerEdge M1000e Modular Blade Enclosure. Barnhart chooses to call attention to the PowerEdge M710. This full-height blade server has plenty of memory (up to 144 GB), up to two Xeon 5500 and 5600 processors and several I/O options (four mezzanine cards, eight high speed ports, four embedded Gigabit NICs). These blades have a starting price of $1,429.

"The M710 is for ideal for users looking for energy efficiency and density to address the growing power consumption and space constraints in your data center," said Barnhart. "It delivers outstanding virtualization and data center performance per watt."

Dell PowerEdge Servers, At a Glance

Towers Rack Servers Blade Servers
Target Deployment General-purpose servers featuring remote manageability, expandability and deployment flexibility. Suitable for SMB and departmental needs as well as databases serving up to 100 users. Also suitable for small workgroups needing high-availability features and memory capacity to drive productivity Departmental needs, ideal for network infrastructure, Web applications, additional storage capacity and high-performing and demanding business applications Environments that must consolidate computing resources to maximize efficiency, front-end mainstream business applications, virtualized environments demanding the utmost in performance/watt, memory-intensive applications, front-end HPC nodes, server consolidation, high-density environments running network infrastructure, Web applications, compute nodes, HPC applications, and file and print
Processor Types Intel Xeon 5500 & 5600 series processors, Intel Xeon quad-core and dual-core, Intel Celeron (D), Intel Core Duo 2, Intel Pentium D dual-core, AMD Opteron dual-core and quad-core Latest Intel Xeon 5600 “Westmere-EP”, Xeon 7500 and 6500 “Nehalem-EX” series processors, as well as new AMD 6100 Opteron series processors Intel Xeon 5500, 5600, 7500 and 6500 series processors, as well as new AMD 6100 Opteron series processors
Operating Systems Windows Server, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Solaris, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer Windows Server, Red Hat Linux, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Solaris, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer Windows Server, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Solaris, VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer
Servers T110
T310
T410
T610
T710
R910
R905
R815
R810
R710
2970
R610
R510
R410
R310
R210
M910
M905
M805
M710
M605
M610
Entry Price $449 $749 $1,429

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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