Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/30/dell_nehalem_servers/

Dell girds iron from the tower to the blade

Racks included

By Timothy Prickett Morgan

Posted in Servers, 30th March 2009 19:37 GMT

Nehalem Day Dell has officially announced its new "Nehalem EP" server lineup.

You already got the sales pitch for the servers from Dell based on Intel's "Nehalem EP" Xeon 5500 processors last week, so there is no point in going over that ground again today.

Let's get down to the feeds and speeds, starting with the PowerEdge tower box, then the two rack machines, and on to the two blade servers. All of them are, of course, two-socket machines.

Like Hewlett-Packard, IBM (to a certain degree), and Fujitsu (in its incarnations in Asia and Europe), Dell sells a lot of tower servers to small and medium businesses, and this new Nehalem-based tower, the T610, is not just a product to flesh out the company's spec sheets. At many companies, the tower server is basically the data center, and at others, they are used in departments and remote offices and nonetheless represent the local computing available to end users.

The T610 uses a motherboard based on the "Tylersburg" 5520 chipset from Intel and supports the dual-core or quad-core variants of the Xeon 5500 series of chips. The exact feeds and speeds of the Nehalems used in the T610 were not provided by Dell at press time, but there are eleven different Nehalem EPs that I have been able to identify prior to the Intel launch event in Santa Clara this afternoon.

The odds favor the T610 supporting the lowest cost options for sure, and there is no technical reason the box can't use the fastest ones. The T610 mobo has a dozen DDR3 memory slots and supports up to 96 GB of main memory using 8 GB DIMMs. 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB DIMMs are a lot less expensive than 8 GB DIMMs and are also supported.

The Dell Nehalem tower server has two PCI-Express x8 slots and three PCI-Express 2.0 x4 slots, which is plenty of I/O capability for a tower server. The T610 server has an integrated SAS RAID controller and other optional controllers with more stuff that can plug into peripheral slots. The server has room for eight 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disks and can also be rejiggered to support eight 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives. It has a dual-port Gigabit Ethernet interface on the mobo and additional Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapters can be plugged into the motherboard for more or faster networking.

In terms of operating systems, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Storage Server are certified on the T610, as are Novell's NetWare 6.5 and SUSE Linux 10 SP2 and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5.2. The server has flash-based embedded hypervisors for server virtualization, including special Dell editions of XenServer Express and XenServer Enterprise from Citrix Systems and ESXi 3.5 from VMware.

The PowerEdge R610 is a rack variant of the T610 that crams the system into a 1U form factor. It supports the dual-core or quad-core Nehalem EP chips. Again, speeds were not given for the processors that Dell is offering in this R610 server, but considering the compactness of the box, it is possible that the fastest, 90-watt parts are not supported unless they use the Turbo Mode features of the Nehalem processors, which allow customers to shut off some of the cores to conserve power and reduce heat under heavy computing workloads.

The R610 has two PCI-Express 2.0 x8 peripheral slots and room for up to six 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disk drives or 2.5-inch SSD disks. (You can obviously mix disks and SSDs, and many customers will be encouraged to do so to boost I/O performance). The R610 is being offered with a "high efficient" 502-watt EnergySmart power supply as well as a 717-watt "high output" power supply.

The R610 supports Windows Server 2008, NetWare 6.5, SUSE Linux 10 SP2, and RHEL 5.2, just like the T610, but Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 is also supported on the machine by Dell. The hypervisor options are all the same.

On the rack

The PowerEdge R710 server kicks the Nehalem EP rack box up another notch, boosting the DDR3 memory slot count up to eighteen (for a maximum of 144 GB of memory capacity) and putting this new mobo into a 2U rack box that has more room for expansion and more air flow to cool it all. The DDR3 memory runs at the full range of speeds on the R710 (800 MHz, 1.07 GHz, and 1.33GHz), but Dell warns that using 8 GB DIMMs on this server requires the memory modules to be clocked down to 533 MHz.

The R710 server has room for eight 2.5-inch SAS or SATA drives or six 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives. The machine comes with different I/O configurations, including one that puts two PCI-Express x8 slots and two PCI-Express 2.0 x4 slots in the box and another that puts one x16 and two x4 2.0 slots in the box. The machine has four Gigabit Ethernet ports with failover and offload capabilities built in, and comes with an efficient 570-watt or a regular 870-watt power supply.

The R710 supports the same operating systems and hypervisors as the R610 outlined above.

On to the PowerEdge Nehalem EP blade servers. The M610 is a half-height blade and the M710 is a full-height blade. The M610 blade supports the 60-watt, 80-watt, and 95-watt variants of the Nehalem processors, while the M710 supports 55-watt and 75-watt options (the first I have heard of these chips). The M610 has a dozen DDR3 slots, for a total of 96 GB, while the M710 has eighteen slots for a maximum of 144 GB.

The M610 has two Gigabit Ethernet ports, while the M710 doubles that up to four ports. Both machines use the Intel 5520 chipset, and both have two 2.5-inch drive bays that can use a variety of SAS, SATA, or SSD drives. The blades can have a variety of mezzanine cards plugged into their motherboards to add Gigabit Ethernet, 10 Gigabit Ethernet, Fibre Channel, and InfiniBand (both DDR and QDR speeds) networking above and beyond that which is integrated into the blade board.

The operating system support on these blades is broader than with the rack and tower machines, and that may simply be a matter of which ones have been put through the certification process first. Dell is preloading Windows Server 2008 in all of its incarnations on these two PowerEdge blades as well as Windows Server 2003, RHEL 4 and 5, and SLES 10. SLES 9 and Solaris 10 are supported, but not preinstalled. In terms of hypervisors, Dell is supporting ESX Server 3.5 or ESXi 3.5 (the latter embedded on a flash drive) as well as XenServer Express or Enterprise on the M610 or M710; customers can run ESX Server 3.0 on the box, but it doesn't come preinstalled.

The servers are all shipping now, according to Dell. Pricing information was not available at press time, but within the next couple, we'll be doing a big, ol' Nehalem Throwdown to see how everyone stacks up of days as pricing information trickles forth. ®