Review: Dell blade servers tip the scales

Dell's M1000e blade system wows with novel new blades, improved management, modular I/O, and 40G out the back

Review: Dell blade servers scale to new heights

It seems that Dell has been quite busy, especially where its blade offerings are concerned. Back in 2010, I reviewed the Dell PowerEdge M1000e blade chassis and blade servers, along with competing blade systems from HP and IBM, and I came away with a very good impression overall. At a lower cost, the Dell blades proved as fast and as manageable as the others, but there weren't as many different types of blade servers to be had compared to the competition.

What a difference a couple of years makes.

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Back in 2010, Dell had a few varieties of compute blades, but that was it. There were two-CPU or four-CPU blades, but no higher-density blades, virtualization-centric blades, or storage blades. Now, all of those options exist, and they are delivered in the same 10U M1000e chassis.

From a purely hardware perspective, the Dell PowerEdge M1000e is quite a compelling system. The vastly increased number of individual blade options -- including the introduction of novel high-density blades such as the PowerEdge M420, the impressive PS-M4110 storage blade, and the Force10 MXL 10G/40G blade switch -- offer more flexibility and scalability than ever.

But Dell has also taken steps to lighten the administrative burden, layering on sleek and functional management tools that add to the M1000e's charm. Integrating Force10 switch management into the mix is a work in progress, and Dell still must face the task of centralizing the management of multiple chassis. In the meantime, Dell has already succeeded in turning out a very well-rounded blade system.

Little big SAN
Among Dell's debut blade options, the brand-new EqualLogic PS-M4110 storage blade should take center stage. This is a half-height, double-wide blade that houses 14 2.5-inch disks and two redundant controllers, connected to the switching fabric through two internal 10G interfaces, one per controller. Despite its tiny footprint, this is a fully functional EqualLogic iSCSI SAN array with the same capabilities as the full-size PS4100 arrays.

The PS-M4110 storage blade uses the same firmware and drives exactly the same as the outboard array. This means it can be controlled as part of an existing EqualLogic group that can comprise up to 16 EqualLogic arrays of varying types, assuming that 6100-series arrays are part of the mix. Otherwise, the 4000-series arrays are limited to two per group.

The EqualLogic PS-M4110 storage blade opens like a drawer, exposing the 14 hot-swap disks and hot-swap controllers that enter and exit from the top. In the front are a series of LEDs that show the status of each disk and controller at a glance, and when the drawer is open, each disk and controller have status lights on the top as well.

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Test Center Scorecard
 
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Dell PowerEdge M1000e Blade System999999

9.0

Excellent

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