InfoWorld review: Dell's virtualization servers surge ahead

Dell PowerEdge R805 and R905 servers, based on AMD's hexacore Opteron CPUs, are far faster, cheaper, and more efficient than models that shipped only a year ago

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Comparing performance of virtualization servers is best done using VMmark, which is freely available from VMware. However, this is a complex test suite that is both hard to configure and difficult to run. Because of this, all results, including ours, come from the vendors themselves. The R905 achieved 27.5 tiles (the unit of measure in VMmark). Last year, the same model weighed in at 14.8 tiles. This is a stunning improvement of 85 percent year over year. The R805 promises similar gains. Dell has not yet published certifiable VMmark results for this machine, but expects a result between 15 and 16 tiles. Similarly configured servers from HP fall within this range, so it's safe to project a midpoint of 15.5 tiles. This number marks a 96 percent improvement over last year's R805 score. This system is faster than last year's R905 model, which had twice the number of processors. It's not often that one year brings a near doubling of performance based primarily on processor upgrades -- kudos to AMD.

Power consumption has dropped dramatically. Last year, the R905 sucked up a full 652W to run at 100 percent capacity. This year, it required 405W, a 38 percent drop. The R805 went from 411W to 260W when running at 100 percent. This is an excellent result. Two years ago, an average workstation running at full tilt could easily surpass this level of power consumption.

Finally, the pricing: The R905 has dropped only about 5 percent, from $19,812 to $18,906. The R805, however, has dropped very significantly; at $7,643, it's nearly half of last year's price. Given its performance and scalability, the R805 is a standout in price-performance and should be attractive to SMBs and small enterprises.

Both systems impressed me with their capabilities and, especially, by how much they've progressed in the year since our last review. I rate both systems as excellent for performance and power usage. Expandability is good on both systems, but not out of the ordinary for servers in this category. The nod goes to the R905 for its greater headroom. Serviceability is identical to last year, as these machines are essentially the same except for processor upgrades and minor hardware tweaks. As to value, the R805's enormous price drop propels it ahead of the R905.

The upshot is that, using the weightings favored by InfoWorld, these systems are essentially tied. If your organization values characteristics differently, you should recalculate the scores. Either way, you're likely to find that these servers are closely matched in terms of deliverables. I find myself attracted to the R805 and the prospect of doubling up on it in lieu of buying a single R905. This strategy has a lower overall price point and offers sites finer granularity in their virtualization infrastructure, while not consuming extra rack space. Each additional system at an IT site, however, does have associated costs beyond the hardware and bundled software, so each group needs to evaluate this approach in the context of its own preferences.

This story, "InfoWorld review: Dell's virtualization servers surge ahead," was originally published at Follow the latest developments in hardware at

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