Review: Dell PowerEdge VRTX Is Fast And Versatile

Server Innovation

Dell continues to prove itself as an innovator in server technologies. For the third year running, the company has found itself the recipient of the CRN Test Center's Product of the Year for enterprise servers. In 2011, the PowerEdge C6145 caught our attention with its 96-Opteron cores in a two-node, 2U design. Last year, the company's PowerEdge 720xd blew away what had been the competition for our Top 10 Servers of all time.

In 2013, Dell builds on the multi-node theme with the PowerEdge VRTX, a desktop data center capable of housing as many as four server nodes, 48 terabytes of storage and enterprise-grade network switching in a single cabinet or 5U rack enclosure.

Here's a closer look at Dell's latest, the PowerEdge VRTX.

Simple Setup

A small color panel displays status and configuration of most components, including those for server, storage and the enclosure itself. This makes simple work of setup and health monitoring, and it also makes it easy to obtain DHCP assignments for configuration and management using a browser. The panel also permits changes to some settings, including network addresses and assignment of the shared DVD drive, USB bus and monitor port (shown). Optional locking panels (not shown) secure the server blades and hard drives while leaving the display panel and its control pad accessible.

Scalable Design

The PowerEdge VRTX starts with two PowerEdge M620 or M520 Intel Xeon E5-series blade server nodes, and it can accept as many as four, each with its own memory, storage and expansion slots (more on the specs next). Blades slide in and out for easy service and can mix and match depending on budget, computing requirements or intended applications. They attach and lock into the chassis through a proprietary backplane and interconnect, giving the server nodes access to power supplies, hard drives, fans, networking and other shared resources contained in the VRTX enclosure. The VRTX is designed to grow along with the needs of a small office, enterprise branch office or campus department.

Switch Blades

Dell's PowerEdge M520 and M620 Blade Servers are the very same devices that work with its PowerEdge M1000e Blade Enclosure, which can accept 16 blades. Model M520 supports two, four, six or eight E5-2400 series cores and as much as 368 GB of 1600MHz DDR3 memory in its 12 DIMM slots. The M620 encompasses E5-2600 series parts, which add 10- and 12-core options. It can be packed with as much as 768 GB of memory in its 24 SIMM slots. Dell blades also can accept one or two hot-swap SATA, SAS HDD or SSD drives and a variety of mezzanine cards for adding networking and storage interfaces. They're both certified for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 or 2012 x-64 with Hyper-V, as well as Novell and Red Hat Linux, Citrix XenServer and VMware vSphere ESXi.


With two Xeon 12-core processors and 96 GB of memory between them, the M620 turned performance scores good enough to make it into sixth place on CRN's Top 10 all-time list of fastest servers, just ahead of the 48-core PowerEdge C6145. Running the 64-bit version of Geekbench 2.3, the M620 delivered a top score of 22,970. In tests of transactional and throughput performance, Iometer reported a sustained transaction rate of 151,460 IOps with 512-byte sequential packets and a sustained data transfer rate of 176 MBps with 32K-byte sequential reads. The optimal transaction queue size was determined to be 36, and it was used for all tests.

Taking Up The Rear

Around back, the VRTX enclosure employs four 1100-watt hot-swap power supplies, four hot-swap fan modules and a pair (primary and secondary) of out-of-band gigabit Ethernet management ports. There are also three full-height PCIe expansion slots, five "low-profile" slots and an eight-port gigabit Ethernet switch, all of which are shared among the blades. Street pricing for blades starts at around $1,200 for the M520 plus processor, memory and storage. The tested unit came with two M620 blade servers, each with two Intel Xeon E5-2650 2.0GHz eight-core processors running Windows Server 2012 Datacenter on 96 GB of DDR3 1333MHz memory. List price for each was $3,696 plus $4,749 for the enclosure. Total list price for the tested system was $12,175.

For the small and medium-sized business, branch office or campus, the Dell PowerEdge VRTX is a powerful, remotely manageable, reasonably priced system that can expand along with need. The Dell PowerEdge VRTX is a recommended product.