Early adopters of the new Dell PowerEdge R720 servers say the servers pack more power, while other users say software updates are an incremental step toward more streamlined server management.
Dell PowerEdge R720 server
New hardware features include:
- The ability to map out parts of memory DIMMs that have high single-bit errors and eliminate them from the effective space to reduce memory-related downtime;
- New storage integration including the ability to put in hot-pluggable, front-access PCIe SSDs;
- Redundant SD cards installed on the server for more highly available hypervisor hosting.
Though Dell did not disclose specs on all its 12G server models, early adopters say the new R720 platform will include up to 24 dual in-line memory modules (DIMMs), significantly boosting overall memory capacity for virtualized environments.
“We’re getting 33% more DIMM space, and we’re now going to move to 16 gigabyte DIMMs in the R720 platforms,” said Alex Rodriguez, vice president of systems engineering and product development for Expedient Communications, a managed hosting provider based in Cleveland, who tested the new R720 and R720xd models.
Expedient plans to increase total memory per server anywhere from 144 GB up to 386 GB per system.
“It’s very important for cloud service providers like us, and folks that run a lot of virtualization where memory is often a key constraint,” Rodriguez said.
Dell officials confirmed the new DIMM numbers late Friday and also confirmed the R720xd model will accommodate up to 24 front-access 2.5 inch disk drives plus two 2.5-inch drives in the rear of the server, or 12 3.5 inch drives with an additional two 2.5 inch drives in the rear of the server.
Certain applications, such as Microsoft Exchange, warrant such large amounts of direct-attached storage (DAS) because of I/O requirements, Rodriguez said. And “since the drives are internal to the box, we don’t have to pay for an external chassis, thereby keeping costs low,” he added.
More internal drives per Dell server could also come in handy with virtual storage appliances such as VMware Inc.’s vSphere Storage Appliance (VSA), where capacity and scalability have been constrained in previous releases.
In the meantime, users also welcome new memory error checking.
“Whenever there’s a problem with a server, it usually comes down to a memory issue, so that may be something they’re addressing based on their service calls,” said Leonard Niebo, director of IT for the Brick Township, N.J., public schools.
Along with the R720 and R720xd, Dell will ship more new PowerEdge server models next month, including the 2U, 4-socket R820; a C6220 intended for shared infrastructure; a rackmount R620; a blade form-factor M620 and a T620 intended for small and remote offices. Memory and disk capacity for those systems, as well as pricing information for all models, was unavailable as of press time.
Rodriguez said his tests had also included servers loaded with new Intel Corp. CPUs, which deliver up to 40 Gbps throughput in encryption-processing tests. Dell declined to comment on which CPUs would ship with the new PowerEdge systems.
Dell software updates ‘a step in the right direction’
Meanwhile, Dell’s software updates for 12G servers are an incremental step in the right direction towards a single point of management for servers in the data center, users say.
Server software updates
New Dell server software offerings include the following:
- New agentless monitoring for Dell Remote Access Card (iDRAC) 7 software with Lifecycle Controller 2.0, which doesn’t require an OS to be running on the server to work;
- Automated error reporting for iDRAC including phone-home support;
- A “forever log” for iDRAC with up to 1 million events, 5,000 data points;
- A new OpenManage Essentials software package for centralized monitoring of servers, networking and storage;
- New OpenManage Power Center software package that monitors room-level power consumption;
- Dell Management Plug-in for VMware vCenter and Dell Lifecycle Controller Integration for Microsoft System Center.
One new offering that appeals to Dell shops is the new OpenManage Power Center, a systems management product that monitors environmental factors such as temperature and integrates these metrics into the rest of the OpenManage software suite. Also new is an OpenManage Essentials package that lets IT pros monitor storage, network switches and servers in one console.
One IT pro said he likes that it gives him a way to monitor the data center from his desk.
“This looks like a step in the right direction,” said Barry Blakely, infrastructure architect for Mazda N.A. ”You want to be able to set it and forget it on the physical side so you can be agile on the virtual side and provision servers on demand.”
Still, Blakely said he’d like Dell to take things a step further.
“I would like an integrated rack and server solution where I set up my rack and it has everything built into it, like the [power distribution units], ready to just plug into my circuits,” he said. “And when I’m ready to deploy a server, I just slide it into a rack and plug it into a backplane — similar to a blade.”
Blakely said he prefers rack-mount servers to blade systems for virtualization because he considers rack-mount units less complex. But, he said, “it becomes time-consuming to rack all your servers — there’s different racking methodologies for different products” — for example, Dell EqualLogic storage systems have a different rack rail than the R710 server and Dell Compellent storage systems. “I’d like to see consistency across the board,” said Blakely.
While OpenManage Essentials does let IT monitor servers, networking and switches from one place, the ability to push out one-to-many firmware upgrades for all three areas of the data center is something for a future release, according to Dell officials.
Brick Township’s Niebo said iDRAC came in handy and let him remotely manage servers after a large snowstorm last December prevented access to a server room. The machines began overheating but Niebo and his staff remotely powered down almost two full racks of equipment, saving it from being destroyed.
As for agentless monitoring for iDRAC, Niebo said it’s nice to have, but “not a game changer, where we would choose one server over the other just based on that feature.”
Agentless monitoring would be beneficial in certain situations, like when servers hang on a Windows update, he said.
Expedient’s Rodriguez said he’d like the option of shutting off the additional software options via a DIP switch, as all of those processes can slow boot times.
Beth Pariseau is a senior news writer for SearchServerVirtualization.com and SearchDataCenter.com. Write to her at email@example.com.
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