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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

Other hardware innovations include dual internal SD cards to support a redundant boot device for VMware ESXi. The SD cards are mirrored and allow the system to continue to operate if one device fails. In case of failure, a system fault will trigger allowing the administrator to issue an orderly shutdown for repair. Dell developed its fault-resilient memory in conjunction with VMware to provide redundancy for critical system memory. Intel estimates between a 40 to 50 percent power saving at the memory level due to the lower-voltage (1.2 volts) DDR4 memory. This savings could add up to significant amounts when you max out the memory on one of these systems.

New management and software options

If you've ever walked into a data center attempting to find one server among many racks of servers or even one server inside a tall rack, you will appreciate the new, Near Field Communication (NFC)-equipped front panel on the R730xd. Simply press the button on the panel, then touch an Android smartphone with the Dell OpenManage Mobile app installed; you'll have access to a wealth of information about the server without opening the lid.

You'll need version 1.1 of the app, now available from the Google Play Store, which adds the NFC capability to directly connect to the Dell server. The previous version required entering the IP address of the server's iDRAC controller to make the connection from your mobile device. Dell's 13G servers come with version 8 of the iDRAC management platform, which, in addition to introducing the iDRAC "Quick Sync" NFC interface, includes features to accommodate new power and thermal profiles in the Intel processors.

Finally, a new software option for Windows Server 2012 R2 deployments, called SanDisk DAS Cache, lets you take full advantage of any available SSD in the R730xd to create either write-back or write-through cache. SanDisk DAS Cache attaches to a specific disk volume on the server to act as an accelerator, working in addition to the native caching available in Windows Server 2012 R2.

Dell has hit a long home run with the PowerEdge R730xd, covering a wide range of use cases and delivering a powerful 2U server with lots of room to grow. With 192GB of memory (rounding out a nice configuration for a virtual machine host), the pricing of my review unit would be close to $19,000 — an excellent deal. Starting price for a minimally configured system comes in at $2,579. You can start small and grow large without breaking the bank. Ultimately, the new Dell PowerEdge R730xd has everything you would want in a workhorse server — and then some.


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