The Dell PowerEdge R720xd is one of the first offerings in Dell's new, 12th-generation PowerEdge server lineup. It's basically an expanded version of the PowerEdge 720 and oriented toward fast, well-managed file, virtualization, and storage workloads. That means the box has a distinguished pedigree to live up to, and after putting the R720xd through its paces, I'm sure its lineage won't be disappointed.
The R720xd's hardware muscle ups the performance bar from its 11-gen siblings -- for example, delivering 53 percent more OLTP performance than the previous-gen R710. Aside from the obligatory boost in horsepower, it's clear that Dell has concentrated much of its design efforts on remote server management.
I really liked the iDRAC7/LC combination (long form: the Dell Integrated Remote Access Controller v7 and the Dell Lifecycle Controller). The agent-less feature is nice, and it isn't tied to a single OS or third-party management platform. You can go ahead and use Dell's OpenManage or similar platforms from CA, HP, IBM, or Microsoft. The iDRAC7/LC combo is also a standard feature on all Dell 12G machines, so there's only one learning curve for the entire line. I wasn't able to test the long-term lifecycle or tracking features, but discovery was fast, and the setup and configuration wizards were very easy.
I would've liked to see auto-tuning on this box, but it's not supported. Neither is a native GPU, and the system has only a 16MB video subsystem; out of the box, this is not a higher-end VDI or RDS (Remote Desktop Services) machine capable of supporting the likes of Windows Server 2008 R2's RemoteFX feature. Then again, if Microsoft and the popular video card vendors ever get their act together on the server front, you will be able to update the box via PCIe.