Dell – PowerEdge R610 review

1U rack mount server, dual socket, Xeon 5500 processors
Photo of Dell – PowerEdge R610
£2,552 + VAT (as reviewed)

Intel’s 45nm Xeon 5500 (Nehalem) processor technology is something of a no-brainer, delivering an unbeatable mix of high performance and energy saving features. Server vendors have, understandably, adopted it with gusto, among them Dell, whose 11th generation PowerEdge servers feature support for the new Intel chips plus a couple of unique features of its own making.

The new Dell PowerEdge family is made up of tower, rack-mount and blade servers, with the 1U PowerEdge R610 we tested targeted at high density data centres and branch offices needing local virtualisation. To this end it can accommodate two of the new Xeon processors plus up to 50 percent more memory than the Dell PowerEdge 1950 it replaces.

As with other 11th generation servers it’s possible to choose more or less any of the new dual and quad-core 5500s to fit inside the R610, ours shipping with a pair of mid-range Xeon 5520s. Of course, for some a dual-processor setup may seem like overkill, but most customers are expected to opt for this kind of arrangement, especially where large amounts of memory are required. That’s because the independent memory controllers in each processor, designed to eliminate the frontside bus bottleneck, require both processors to be present in a dual-socket system in order to support a full complement of RAM.

With 12 DIMM slots on hand the R610 can be fitted with up to 48GB of memory, although expensive 8GB modules are needed to reach that limit. Prices will inevitably fall, but for now most customers are opting for more modest amounts, the review system sporting six 2GB DIMMs, leaving six slots free for expansion.

With only 1U available, storage is somewhat constrained, although up to six 2.5-inch disks can be accommodated if required with a choice of SATA, SAS or solid state (SSD) devices. Plus, there’s a RAID controller on the motherboard, the review system shipping with three 146GB SAS drives, pre-configured as a RAID 5 array; another fairly common configuration.

In terms of what Dell itself then adds to the mix, there’s the usual high build quality plus room for a pair of redundant power supplies. The R610 also benefits from a new front bezel, designed to better optimise airflow while, round at the back, you’ll find connectors for four Gigabit Ethernet controllers. You can also specify an embedded hypervisor, implemented on a bootable SD card, with VMware, XenServer and Hyper-V all available this way.

We opted for a standard OS rather than a hypervisor, with the usual extensive list of factory installed Windows and Linux platforms on offer. Plus, for those doing it themselves, there’s one of Dell’s new Lifecycle controllers on the motherboard, complete with 1GB of flash memory, doing away with the need for a setup CD and making the R610 a lot easier to deploy.

Management, too, is fully covered by Dell’s iDRAC Express controller, again integrated onto the motherboard as standard. Together with a dedicated Ethernet port this supports a Web-based remote console with an optional upgrade to add support for virtual media and other more advanced options. Dell’s OpenManage suite of server management tools is also bundled, along with the Web-based Dell Management Console (DMC) based on Symantec (formerly Altiris) software to remotely manage large multi-server deployments.

We were very impressed with what the R610 has to offer. Although compact, it can be configured to suit a wide range of applications. Perfromance comes in spades and you don’t necessarily need big pockets to afford it. The review system came in at just over £2,500 + VAT, but for those with more modest means, prices start at just £959 + VAT, and for that you still get all the built-in features including the lifecycle controller and remote management.

On the downside there’s not a huge amount of room inside the R610. But for those who need more space, its big brother – the 2U R710 – offers the same level of performance and functionality for not much more money.

Company: Dell

Contact: 0844 444 4155

The 1U member of Dell's 11th generation PowerEdge server family is small but beautifully formed, with sockets for two Xeon 5500 (Nehalem) processors and up to 48GB of RAM. The new Dell Lifecycle controller is another key feature along with built-in remote management and optional embedded hypervisor, making for an easy to deploy as well as highly configurable platform able to host a wide range of applications.