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Review: Dell's 13G PowerEdge R730xd, a workhorse server with a kick

Paul Ferrill | Sept. 10, 2014
Hardware improvements, rich storage options, and plenty of room for expansion add up to a very fast, flexible 2U workhorse

New generations of commodity servers typically deliver incremental updates to CPU, memory, power, and storage. It's not often that you see real innovation making its way into these systems. With the release of the 13th-generation PowerEdge R730xd, Dell has shown that innovation still lives in 2U, two-socket servers.

Specific use cases for the PowerEdge R730xd include Microsoft Exchange, with the ability to support a large number of mailboxes on a single system. You could use the same configuration for a high-end Microsoft SharePoint server. Another excellent use case for the PowerEdge R730xd comes is software-defined storage based on products such as Microsoft Storage Spaces, Ceph for Openstack, and VMware Virtual SAN. Total available storage can also be expanded with the addition of a Dell Storage MD1400 direct-attached storage enclosure.

Versatility is a major theme of the 13G PowerEdge R730xd, as you can configure the system in multiple ways. If it's storage you need, you could go with 24 small-form-factor drives in the front, plus two in the rear for more than 100TB of storage using 4TB drives. You can also include up to four Express Flash NVMe PCIe SSDs to satisfy the highest I/O demands.

For scoring this review, I looked at performance, availability, scalability, management, build quality, and overall value, or "bang for the buck." The PowerEdge R730xd excels in every category, but especially in performance and scalability. With 18-core Intel Xeon CPUs and new DDR4 memory parts available sometime after initial launch, you'll be able to pack 72 processing threads and 1.5TB of memory in a single server.

Hardware innovations push performance

It's not uncommon for the next generation of servers to track new releases of Intel's processors. Intel's latest Haswell processor coupled with DDR4 memory bring more speed and lower power requirements in the same 2U form factor. My review unit came equipped with 64GB of DDR4 RAM and two Intel Xeon E5-2690 v3 processors, which run at 2.6GHz. Each CPU has 12 cores and can handle two threads per core for an impressive 24 threads per CPU. The new Xeon will provide as many as 18 cores in its highest-end versions.

On the storage side, my review unit came with five Dell-labeled, 200GB 1.8-inch 6Gbps SSDs and five Seagate ST2000NM0023 2TB 7200RPM SAS 3.5-inch HDDs, accessible from the front. Two more 2.5-inch drives on the rear provide a RAID-1 mirror for the operating system disk. This leaves all drives on the front available as user-configurable storage. The innovative 1.8-inch SSD housing allows for the installation of up to 18 front-loaded devices.

Dell's latest PERC RAID controllers fully support Microsoft's Storage Spaces and make it possible to configure individual drives as non-RAID devices. My review unit came with the Dell PERC H730P controller, which supports transfer rates up to 12Gbps. Expansion options include six PCIe 3.0 slots, plus a dedicated slot for the RAID controller.


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