By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2004-08-02 Print this article Print

In eWEEK Labs exclusive tests of Dells first entry into the 64-bit server space, we found that the PowerEdge 1850 offers a solid and affordable system for shops looking to upgrade to Intel Corp.s Xeon-based systems while getting ready for 64-bit migrations.

The PE1850 packs plenty of horsepower, supporting two Xeon EM64T processors with speeds that range from 2.8GHz to 3.6GHz. The PE1850 also has six DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots and can be outfitted with as much as 8GB of memory—more than enough for 32-bit applications and a good-size chunk for taking advantage of higher memory addressing when running in 64-bit mode.

The Xeon EM64T processor competes with Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron 64. Both chips are designed to run 64-bit applications while providing backward compatibility with current 32-bit applications, and both allow addressing of 64GB of memory. The Xeon EM64T boasts new DDR2 (double-data-rate 2) memory and support for PCI Express Inc.s I/O technology, while the Opteron offers an efficient on-chip memory controller and HyperTransport memory bus.

Click here to read more about the Xeon chip. It is still too early to see which system will come out on top—currently, 64-bit operating systems and software are almost nonexistent. The Opteron has a head start in the market and has proved to be a strong performer and competitor to Intels Xeon line, but the Xeon EM64T is well-positioned to compete in the x86-64 server space.

The PE1850 can run any 32-bit variety of Windows or Linux, as well as the latest 64-bit Linux operating systems. However, IT managers looking to run 64-bit Windows must wait for Microsoft Corp.s planned release of 64-bit Windows XP and Windows Server 2003 this fall.

Microsoft is now saying it wont ship the 64-bit version of Windows Server until 2005. Click here for the full story. The PE1850, which shipped this month, has an entry price of $1,800 for the single-processor system, which is competitive with Opteron-powered offerings from IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co.

Dell offers two models of the dual-processor Xeon EM64T server: the rack-mounted PE1850 and the tower-form-factor PE2800 . The $1,800 rack-mounted PE1850s compact chassis is a better fit in crammed server farms; the $2,000 PE2800 tower units extra hard drives are best-suited for sites that have bigger server storage needs. Both servers support the same chip sets and EM64T processors.

We tested the rack-mounted PE1850, which lists for $6,600 and has dual 3.6GHz Xeon EM64T processors, 1GB of error-checking and -correcting DDR-2 memory, an integrated PowerEdge RAID Controller, dual 34GB 15K SCSI drives and an integrated DRAC 4 (Dell Remote Access Controller 4) on-board remote controller card. The test PE1850 included embedded dual Gigabit Ethernet and dual redundant power supplies.

The PE1850 comes with Windows Server 2003 Standard Edition. Dells latest management suite, OpenManage 4.0, also ships with PE1850 systems, providing support for the Intelligent Platform Management Interface 1.5 industry management standard. OpenManage 4.0 works in conjunction with the new DRAC 4 for improved remote management capabilities. These include Active Directory integration and support for virtual media for installations and updates.

Dell offers two DRAC 4 versions: a PCI model and an integrated daughtercard installed on a motherboard. We advise using the integrated DRAC 4 with the PE1850 because it saves PCI slots for other expansion cards.

The PE1850s chassis is easy to access, and internal components can be removed easily, but the ports in the back panel are difficult to get to because the PCI expansion card is in the way. The optional second power supply is a good addition for improved hardware redundancy.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at francis_chu@ziffdavis.com.

Check out eWEEK.coms Infrastructure Center at http://infrastructure.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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