Stunning Dell PowerEdge Server

Capacities of the unit officially known as the PowerEdge C6145 greatly surpass last year’s leading PowerEdge, and just one of the C6145’s two server nodes nearly doubled the Geekbench score of the reigning champ, the Dell R810.

The C6145 is actually two four-socket servers in one 2U chassis, each with 32 DIMM slots for a total DDR3 memory capacity of 1 TB and 96 total processor cores. It’s aimed squarely at high-performance computing applications, virtualization, VDI and EDA workloads, and with a peak Geekbench 2.1.11 score of 22,607, we’d say it’s well qualified. For our tests, we configured each node as a standalone server running 64-bit Windows Server 2008 R2.

Each server was populated with four AMD 6132HE 12-core processors, and each with its own 128 GB of memory. However, Windows addressed only a maximum of 32 GB. The peak results were observed when running the 64-bit version of Geekbench on node 2. Node 1’s high-water mark was 21,257.

From most outward appearances, the C6145 looks like many other rackmount servers. Its front panel is occupied by drives -- as many as 24 2.5-inch drives or 12 3.5-inch drives -- and its top cover slides backward to reveal processors, fans, memory and its three half-length PCIe x16 expansion slots.

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What’s less obvious is that the fans and power supplies are shared by two motherboards, which are mounted to sleds that slide out rearward. More on these later. The only hint given by the front panel about the machine’s two-node nature is its dual-button control plate at the unit’s far left. Its weight also might provide a clue; the C6145 weighs about 80 pounds without mounting rails.

The C6145’s rear panel is really where the action is. All rear-facing components are hot-swappable, including the twin 1023W power supplies and its upper and lower server nodes, each of which slides out in its 1U sled for upgrades and service. Ports built into the motherboards include dual Gigabit Ethernet, dual USB 2.0 and VGA output. A third RJ-45 connector is dedicated to out-of-band management and administration. On the far-right-hand side is an IPASS connector for attaching PCIe devices or a PCI bus extender.

For a machine that’s intended to be used for virtualization, we would have liked to see more than just two networking interfaces per server node out of the box. That’s one area where Dell may have fallen a bit short. But its ample expansion capability -- five PCI slots per server in all -- more than make up for this shortcoming.

After a quick first look, the CRN Test Center is already prepared to recommend the Dell PowerEdge C6145 for any installation in need of a high-density, high-performance server with plenty of redundancy features. The C6145 as tested here at CRN carries a list price of $19,502.

Optimized For Opteron

Dell’s latest PowerEdge is one of a series that will be built around new multicore Opteron server processors unveiled on Feb. 14 by Advanced Micro Devices. On that date, AMD began shipping five new many-core Opteron 6100 products with faster speeds than prior iterations, and with better power consumption ratings. In fact, its new chips use just 65 watts at the low end, and only 105 at their greatest. The PowerEdge C6145 employs largely the same motherboard as the PowerEdge R815, with modifications to support low-voltage DDR3 memory, 10 Gbit Ethernet and InfiniBand.

The system also can accept AMD’s new 6176 or 6180SE processors, both of which have 12 cores. The C6145 also can run with the 6136, the eight-core part shipping since March 2010. According to company reports, AMD’s 6176 processor and its other so-called mainstream parts have historically delivered about 80 percent of its high-end processor sales. Also unveiled in mid-February are the 12-core 6166HE and eight-core 6132HE, which AMD said are designed for blade systems and other “dense form factors,” as if the C6145 wasn’t in that category. The HE processors range in frequency from 1.8GHz to 2.12GHz and carry 2 x 6 MB of L2 cache.

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