InfoWorld review: Dell, HP, and Lenovo rack servers

Dual-processor Nehalem Xeon rack servers sport sizzling performance, excellent serviceability, and variations in price and power efficiency

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Three kings

I examined the Dell PowerEdge R710, the Hewlett-Packard DL380 G6, and the Lenovo ThinkServer RD220. These Dell and HP models are both well-established IT workhorses, while the Lenovo is mechanically and electrically identical to the IBM System x3650 M2. All three models are 2U-sized rack-mounted servers. As with pizza boxes, you access their contents by opening and removing the lid. These servers, like most models available today, are superb at making component swaps and other service tasks easy. All three vendors enclosed a map of the server components with various key points of information that they affix to the inside of the cover panel.

Inside the chassis, all adjustments and parts replacement can be done using essentially no tools. Five years ago, the tool-less chassis design was a big and welcome innovation. Today, it is standard fare. The greatest challenge is generally removing the cowlings that direct the fans' air flow when it's time to add RAM or insert PCI riser boards. In all three of these servers, accessing the PCI slots proved fairly straightforward, although the HP requires removing a "riser cage" into which the boards were fitted. The entire cage is then re-inserted into the corresponding slots. This was the only nonintuitive physical manipulation of the servers I encountered.

Nehalem Xeon rack servers at a glance

Dell PowerEdge R710 HP ProLiant DL380 G6 Lenovo ThinkServer RD220
# CPUs / # CPU sockets 2 / 2 2 / 2 2 / 2
Type of CPU (as tested) Intel Xeon X5570 2.93GHz Intel Xeon X5570 2.93GHz Intel Xeon E5540 2.53GHz
Installed RAM / Max RAM 24GB / 192GB 24GB / 144GB 12GB / 128GB
RAM type / speed DDR3 ECC 1333MHz DDR3 ECC 1333MHz DDR3 ECC
# RAM sockets used / total 6 / 18 R-DIMM 6 / 18 R-DIMM 6 / 16 R-DIMM
# PCIe slots 2 x4 + 2 x8 2 + 2 on riser 4 x8
USB ports front / back / internal 2 / 2 / 1 2 / 2 / 1 2 / 2 / 1
Disk type SAS 15K RPM RAID 0 SAS 15K RPM w/ RAID SAS 10K RPM w/ RAID
Installed HDD / slots 2 x 72GB / 8 2 x 72GB / 8 2 x 300GB / 12
Network interfaces 4 x 1GbE 4 x 1GbE 2 x 1GbE
Front panel LCD Yes No No
Power supply 1 x 870W 2 x 750W 2 x 675W
Tool less case design Yes Yes Yes
Chassis 2U rack 2U rack 2U rack
Price as tested $8,273 * $8,882 $5,601
Warranty 3 years, next business day, on-site 3 years, next business day, on-site 3 years, next business day, on-site
Power consumption
Running at 0% non-hibernating 102W 162W 142W
Running at 100% 316W 342W 265W
Performance benchmarks
VMmark 24.27 @ 17 Tiles ** 24.15 @ 17 Tiles ** 23.89 @ 17 Tiles **
SPECjbb2005 300430 bops 304778 bops 244788 bops
Stream 33810 35116 27194
Bottom line The price-performance leader in this category, the Dell also has a low power consumption profile. The performance winner in this review, the HP represents an excellent choice for most enterprise IT organizations. A good server at a great price point, the Lenovo is well suited to SMBs and IT organizations with budget constraints.

Notes to table: * Prices include Windows Server 2008 Standard Edition. The Dell was tested with Enterprise Edition, which raises the price to $10,473. ** VMmark results were obtained on machines with 96GB of RAM; results for Lenovo were obtained from the IBM System x3560 M2, the Lenovo RD220's mechanical and electrical twin.

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