6 Looks Inside Dell's Fastest PowerEdge10:00 AM EST Wed. Mar. 07, 2012
This week Dell began shipping the PowerEdge R720, a replacement for the company's stalwart R710 two-socket, 2U Xeon server. Now in its 12th generation, the PowerEdge R720 centers around Xeon chips built using Intel's 32nm Sandy Bridge process, and that pack as many as eight cores and 16 threads each.
Dell claims that the Sandy Bridge-based R720 reduces power draw at idle by 36 percent and can support 50 percent more VMs than the PowerEdge 710 it replaces. While we can't speak to those claims, the CRN Test Center can report that the R720 outperformed last year's CRN Product of the Year, Servers -- Dell's own PowerEdge C6145 -- by a substantial margin.
The PowerEdge R720 turned in the fastest Geekbench score we've seen here in the CRN Test Center, which until now was reported in our review of the Dell PowerEdge C6145 at about this time last year. Using Primate Labs' Geekbench 2.2.7, testers observed a peak score of 30,923, a gain of about 37 percent over the 22,607 peak score delivered by the faster of the two C6145 server nodes.
The PowerEdge R720 also delivered impressive IOmeter numbers for throughput and transaction processing right out of the box. With the optimal number of pending IO transactions per target identified as 24, the R720 was able to deliver a sustained transaction rate of 311K IOps which transferring data at 140MBps. This test was performed with read operations of 512-byte files. To test throughput, testers switched to a 32K byte file size and observed a sustained rate of 462MB/s while performing about 15K IOps.
Many of today's rack servers include removable air ducts to maximize air flow over processors, memory and other heat-generating components. Dell adds extra utility to its shrouds by labeling them where appropriate to help simplify memory placement. The R720's six fans can be removed as a single unit or individually without the need to power down the server.
What's more, the underside of the R720's cover is home to helpful servicing information, including motherboard layout, memory population diagram, jumper settings and component installation and removal. To compensate for loss of airflow, fans speed up when the cover is removed. Otherwise the R720 remains quiet as a whisper.
Dell packed a ton of computing power into the R720's 2U chassis compared with the R710. The R720 can accept as many as 16 internal hard drives for a maximum hard drive capacity of 24 TB (compared with eight drives and 18TB), one full-length, full-height x16 PCIe slot (shown, vs. none), plus three x8 slots (vs. two). Add Dell's four optional hot-plug PCIe SSDs with dual RAID controller capability and the R720 alone is capable of multi-tiered, front-accessible storage.
As tested, the PowerEdge R720 included two 1-Gb and two 10-Gb Ethernet ports, 128 GB of DDR3 1600 MHz SDRAM, and is expandable to 768 GB. It also included an 8 GB iDRAC SD card and 1 GB redundant SD card, a PERC H710P mini RAID controller, and an 8-port disk backplane with five of its 16 drive bays occupied by 300 GB, 2.5-inch 10k SAS 6 Gbps drives. Total list price as configured: $13,759.
As is typical with Dell servers, the hardware is tattooed with copious labeling wherever there's room for it. To avoid scrambling and searching for manuals whenever a drive fails, Dell documents drive layout on the top-front panel above the drive bays, right where it's needed. Also documented are component locations on the server's front and back panels as well as instructions on replacing hot-swap drives and power supplies. There's even a QR code for quick location of reference materials, videos and other servicing resources.
In addition to a dedicated Gbit port for out-of-band management and Dell's iDRAC lifecycle controller and remote management systems, the PowerEdge R720 offers several dual- and quad-port Gbit Ethernet options, including the dual 1Gb, dual 10Gb option in the tested unit (shown). The PowerEdge R720 includes redundant, hot-swap power supplies in 495, 750 and 1100 watt models, plus options for 3.5-inch or 2.5-inch drives.
The CRN Test Center recommends the PowerEdge R720 as a faster, more expandable replacement for the R710 or as a highly capable server for virtualization, transaction processing, HPC or general computing needs.