Dell PowerEdge R210 II: Sweet, low-end server

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Dell's new and improved 1U, single-socket R210 server pinches pennies and power consumption

The Dell PowerEdge R210 II "ultra-compact rack server" is like the Chrysler PT Cruiser: a little bit of styling for a minimal budget. The original Dell R210 earned a reputation as a bang-for-your-buck server for companies that need remote management capabilities on a shoestring budget. The R210 II follows in its footsteps and walks another mile. Low total cost of ownership, compact size, ease-of-use, and flexibility make the R210 II a great alternative to rivals such as the HP ProLiant DL120 and the IBM System x3250.

Aimed at small and midsize businesses, the R210 II is best suited for data protection, remote access, intranet setup, or as a secure file server. Built-in redundant hard drives are an option, and of course the R210 II can be ordered in various processor, memory, and storage configurations to suit your needs. The price is right. The configuration we tested -- Intel Xeon 3.10GHz, 8GB of RAM, 1TB 7.2K SAS drive -- goes for just $1,711.

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The low total cost of ownership includes minimal energy use as well as features that reduce the time taken to administer and run the unit. Our team tested the server over a 54-hour period and found that it consumed 1.84 kilowatts of energy. (Note that it was not running heavy, processor-intensive tasks -- which it should not be if it is being used for its intended purposes.) That comes to around 0.82 kilowatt a day, and with a conservative estimate of 25 cents per kilowatt hour, that's around $75 a year or a little over $6 a month.

The server operates most efficiently at 90 percent utilization, and it offers efficiency advantages over a desktop or tower system. This is due to the engineering that has created superior cooling through the rack design. The R210 II is also vastly quieter than the original model, which sounded like a lawnmower through a closed window. The R210 II sounds more like a personal fan on the lowest setting -- a huge improvement.

Dell PowerEdge R210 II: Java server tests
Our tests were run with 8GB of memory. To test the technical capabilities, we ran the SPEC Java Server Benchmark, SPECjbb2005, which evaluates the performance of server-side Java by emulating a three-tier client server system. At the end of the test run, SPECjbb2005 generates a score in BOPS (business operations per second) for each warehouse simulation. BOPS represent the overall throughput achieved by all the warehouses in a test run; a higher BOPS value indicates better overall performance. We ran the test three times with the BOPS score averaging around 45,000, using the default SPECjbb2005 settings. 

Considering the BOPS score of 45,000 was extremely slow compared to other servers, we contacted Dell to see if our parameters were consistent with what the company had found in its internal testing. After talking to Dell performance engineers, we were able to tweak the benchmark runtime settings for the specific system under test. The result was an immense improvement in SPECjbb2005 benchmark performance, raising the BOPS score to 305,000. The specific optimizations are included in this command line that we used to invoke the JVM benchmark: 

config.sw.command_line=-Xmn1400m -Xms1875m -Xmx1875m -Xaggressive -Xcompressedrefs -Xgcpolicy:gencon -XlockReservation -Xnoloa -XtlhPrefetch -Xlp

The Dell PowerEdge R210 II's SPEC Java server benchmark results using optimized JVM settings.
The Dell PowerEdge R210 II's SPEC Java server benchmark results.

Although the R210 II is an excellent bargain, it comes with minor shortcomings. For one, although the R210 II has great compatibility for Windows and supports Linux as well, some Linux drivers may be unavailable for the SATA drives, according to some online forums we researched. Furthermore, some administrators have had to resort to bypasses to successfully install Suse Linux Enterprise Server on the system. However, the Ubuntu 64-bit PC (X86_64) OS is Dell certified and can be installed without a hitch if your company wants to go down the Linux route.

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