Dell PowerEdge R720 review

Dell’s new PowerEdge R720 combines Intel’s eagerly awaited Xeon E5-2600 processors with a wealth of new features. Is this the best-designed 2U rack server on the market? Read Dave Mitchell’s exclusive review to find out.

Dell's optional dual SD memory card controller has been redesigned and fits into a dedicated slot at the back of the chassis. A mirrored mode provides hypervisor redundancy by automatically keeping an onboard copy of the primary boot media in case it fails.

Dell PowerEdge R720

Dell PowerEdge R720

The new system setup menu provides direct access to the server, the iDRAC7 and other devices.

Internal design is exemplary, and Dell has avoided wasted space by arranging the CPU and DIMM sockets in a neat row across the centre of the chassis. These are supported by a bank of six hot-plug cooling fans in front and we found noise levels to be extremely low.

Dell's Fresh Air initiative also allows data centre environments to cut cooling costs by running at higher temperatures. The R720 has been certified by Dell to run reliably at up to 45C.

Power choices are good too, with our review system supplied with a pair of platinum-rated 750W hot-plug supplies. Dell also offers 495W models for lighter duties, or higher-power 1100W supplies.

The E5-2680 Xeons in the review system have a comparatively high 130W TDP but power consumption isn't excessive. With Windows Server 2008 R2 in idle, we measured a draw of 120W and this only rose to 358W under maximum load from the SiSoft Sandra benchmarking app.

Dell PowerEdge R720

Dell PowerEdge R720

Remote power monitoring and management features have been improved significantly.

Expansion options are extensive, with seven PCI-e Gen 3 slots, with room for one x16 and three x8 full-height, full length cards, plus three x8 half-length, half-height cards. The PowerEdge R720 is also suitable for graphics intensive applications, since it supports two double-width GPU cards, including NVIDIA's Tesla.

The Sandy Bridge-EP design has the IOH (I/O Hub) moved on-chip and provides forty PCI-e lanes per socket. This new architecture means both CPUs sockets in the R720 must be populated to use all seven slots and, with one CPU, there are three slots to play with.

Dave Mitchell

Dave is an IT consultant and freelance journalist specialising in hands-on reviews of computer networking products covering all market sectors from small businesses to enterprises. Founder of Binary Testing Ltd – the UK’s premier independent network testing laboratory - Dave has over 45 years of experience in the IT industry.

Dave has produced many thousands of in-depth business networking product reviews from his lab which have been reproduced globally. Writing for ITPro and its sister title, PC Pro, he covers all areas of business IT infrastructure, including servers, storage, network security, data protection, cloud, infrastructure and services.