Dell's PowerEdge R415 1U Server Piles on Enterprise Features

The server, intended for modest organizations, sets the stage for VM growth.

The Dell PowerEdge R415 rack-mount server is a general-purpose workhorse system that is a worthwhile choice for cost-conscious organizations. However, the PowerEdge R415 is more than a replacement for Dell's SC1435, which is a 1U AMD-processor-based pizza box.

In the PowerEdge R415, Dell is recognizing the rise of server virtualization in the data center by vastly increasing the maximum configuration to 128GB and up to 12 cores using Advanced Micro Devices' Lisbon-based 4100 series Opteron processors.

Price-conscious IT managers who are evaluating two-socket systems with available enterprise-class management features should consider the Dell PowerEdge R415. With a starting price of $819, it is in line to replace the Dell SC1435.

However, although the SC1435 was a fairly simple system, the PowerEdge R415 has much more configuration flexibility. New hardware options, including Qlogic and Emulex HBAs (host bus adapters) for storage and 10 Gigabit Ethernet network adapters, join memory and processor choices in having the biggest impact on ultimate system cost. IT managers will need to take into account compute, network, memory and storage options more carefully when considering the PowerEdge R415. The AMD-based system, which first became available September 2010, is consistently more favorably priced than the equivalent Intel-based Dell R410.

As tested, the PowerEdge R415 that I worked with at eWEEK Labs priced out at $2,129 at the Dell online store, excluding the cost of the Windows 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. The test system was equipped with two AMD Opteron 4184 six-core processors (the maximum available for the PowerEdge R415) in the basic cabled (as opposed to the slightly more costly hot-pluggable) PowerEdge R415 chassis. The system came with 4GB of single-ranked 1333MHz DDR3 (double data rate type 3) memory, two 250GB 7.2K rpm 3.5-in. Serial ATA drives, and Dell's iDRAC6 (integrated Dell Remote Access Controller 6) Express (without graphical console redirection that is provided in the Enterprise version) remote access interface card. The test system was equipped with the basic two-port embedded Broadcom NetXtreme II 5716 Gigabit Ethernet network interface card that comes standard on the PowerEdge R415.

Our system also used Dell's Ready Rack rail kit for slide-out service access to the PowerEdge R415. I was able to physically install the PowerEdge R415 into the rack in less than 10 minutes. The system fully extends for easy access to components. The PowerEdge R415 is just over 23 in. deep. As such, IT managers should rack it with other short systems. In our test rack, the PowerEdge R415 was a good 6 in. shorter than the other servers, making it a little difficult to access the power, network and other connections on the rear of the PowerEdge R415.

In the Rack

I joined the PowerEdge R415 to our test domain and instantiated the Hyper-V role on the system. Although the system had plenty of CPU cycles, memory was limited-only 4GB of RAM-and I could run only two to three virtual machines.

I used the PowerEdge R415 to run a lightly used Microsoft SQL Server 2005 SP3 and a Windows Server 2003 R2 that provided basic file and print services. The PowerEdge R415 was unremarkable under this light load.

The PowerEdge R415 is more manageable than the previous generation SC1435. The PowerEdge R415 I used in the lab came equipped with an iDRAC6. The system I got had iDRAC6 Express; the Enterprise version, which enables graphical console redirection, is an additional $250. The PowerEdge R415 also came with Dell's OpenManage server-management software and can support the Lifecycle Manager, which is an embedded system management component that is delivered as part of iDRAC6 Express and Enterprise. I used these tools to monitor system components, including processor and memory performance, system thermal measurements and power usage via a Web console. These tools can also be used in larger installations to enable automated system discovery, provide pre-operating system server configuration access, support remote OS installation and provide BIOS updates.

The management tools are intended to ease management tasks for groups of Dell servers. Although I was able to access and monitor the PowerEdge R415 in the rack, these tools are more impressive when used in a data center running tens or hundreds Dell systems. As it was, I used OpenManage tools to keep track of the R415 during the three weeks it was running workloads.

Energy Conscious

The PowerEdge R415 has all the hallmarks of a system designed for energy-conscious IT managers. Dell's inside-the-system design work keeps pace with other top-tier server makers. The CPU and memory are shrouded and given dedicated, variable-speed fans to dissipate heat efficiently.

My test unit came with a single 480W energy-efficient power supply. The PowerEdge R415 can be equipped with a second hot-swappable power supply. The power supplies are situated away from the processors with segregated airflow to minimize heat concentration. As expected, the thermal measurements inside the system never strayed outside of normal, around 24 degrees Centigrade.

Click here to view a slide show on Dell's PowerEdge R415.