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Dell PowerEdge R610 server review

HP and IBM should be very afraid. Dell’s latest PowerEdge R610 - featuring Intel's new 'Nehalem' Xeon 5500 - sets new standards for rack server design. We exclusively review the new addition to the PowerEdge family.

Power fault tolerance is on the cards as the server came with two 502W hot-plug supplies, which are the new 90 per cent efficient models. Tests confirm that Dell has done a fine job on reducing consumption as our in-line power meter recorded the R610 drawing only 15W in standby and a modest 144W with Windows Server 2003 R2 running in idle. With SiSoft Sandra pushing all sixteen logical cores to the max we saw this rise to a peak of only 260W.

Hardware features keep on getting better with the R610 now providing four embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports. These are TOE (TCP Offload Engine) ready with the optional iSCSI offload upgrade and Dell has even included an extra dual-port Gigabit PCI-e card in the price. There's room for more expansion as a second riser card alongside offers another PCI-e slot.

The R610 introduces some completely new server management concepts and we'll start with the Lifecycle Controller. This is embedded on the motherboard and is, in fact, a 1GB chunk of NVRAM memory. The server can be booted from it by selecting the System Services option in the boot menu, where it loads Dell's UEFI (unified extensible firmware interface) environment complete with GUI and support for mouse and keyboard.

The GUI provides access to OS deployment tools so you no longer need to boot the server with Dell's Server Assistant disk. The UEFI offers a deployment wizard where you enter your details and leave the server to get on with installing your chosen OS. The controller also provides diagnostics and server update tools plus access to the server settings.

Remote management is facilitated by Dell's new iDRAC6 controller, which is located at the rear and provides a dedicated network port. The base model offers a similar level of features to HP's iLO2 chip with access to server monitoring tools, whilst the Enterprise upgrade on the review system adds support for virtual media and full KVM-over-IP services.

General server and system management sees the biggest changes as Dell's new Management Console is based on Symantec's Altiris Notification Server. Not content with looking after its own servers, Dell now provides the means to manage other vendor's servers. This is the result of a two-year development program, which sees the elderly IT Assistant put out to grass with the aim of providing a single console for managing all equipment.

The Management Console starts with an automated search process, which populates its database with discovered systems and any SNMP enabled device is also included. All servers and workstations can then have the Alritis agent pushed to them. This provides enhanced inventory, system monitoring and remote management capabilities. There's much more as the console provides options to run automated tasks on groups of systems, a script builder and a sophisticated reporting engine.

Not only has Dell delivered Intel's new 5500 processors to market ahead of its main rivals, but the new PowerEdge servers take design to the next level. The R610 offers a remarkable range of new features, has a very low power consumption and looks excellent value.

Verdict

Dell’s eleventh generation PowerEdge servers raise the bar for rack server design - the new R610 simply oozes class. It delivers Intel’s new 5500 Series processors in an extremely well designed chassis that’s easy on the power supply, incredibly quiet and teamed up with a comprehensive management and system deployment package.

Chassis: 1U rack

CPU: 2 x 2.4GHz E5530 Xeon

Chipset: Intel 5520

Memory: 12GB 1066MHz DDR3 UDIMM

Storage: 1GB SD card; 4 x 147GB Fujitsu 10k SFF SAS hard disks in hot-swap carriers

RAID: Dell PERC 6/i with 256MB cache and BBU

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5

Expansion: 2 x PCI-e slots

Network: 4 x embedded Gigabit, dual port PCI-e Gigabit adapter

Power: 2 x 502W hot-plug supplies

Management: iDRAC6 Enterprise with 10/100

Software: Dell Management Console

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