Lab test: Dell's greener M-Series
Dell's updated M-Series blade server gives more horsepower for less juiceFollow @infoworld
After getting past the catch-22 stage, the M-Series blades just plain worked. Video through the iKVM and through the front-panel VGA connector was crisp, and with two USB connectors up front, you no longer have to hunt down the proprietary cables as you did for the past series of Dell blades.
We did fall into a trap since we only had six blades for this 16-slot behemoth. We just slipped them into slots one through six. However, this set up an uneven heat load in the chassis, and when we got to the very hot convention center, the bottom three fans turned our rack into a wind tunnel. At the suggestion of a Dell engineer, we shuffled the blades around and the fans dropped in speed and noise. Once the air conditioning came up in the exhibit hall, all nine fans dropped to a whisper.
Extra management features
One of my favorite features is really only visible if you’re running Power Shell under Windows or a shell account on a Linux box -- that’s the serial over IP redirector. Think of it as a terminal server connected to the first serial port and redirecting the console over the network. Dell has crammed in an IP KVM (optional), CMC (which can also have a redundant unit), a serial term server, and a couple of switches (various configurations in the options list) into the chassis, saving you at least 3RUs of gear. The only thing I wasn’t wild about was only being able to bring up a single GUI console at a time on my laptop. I have to note that this problem was only on my machine, since others on the iLabs team were able to connect just fine from another laptop and get a different GUI console. We also cascaded the iKVM module into an Avocent AMX analog KVM unit so that we could get to all the server consoles regardless of where we were on the Interop show floor.
While I’ve decided I like this blade server -- even more than the 1955 series we tested last year -- I’m still not wild about those tiny pins on the back plane connector for the blades. I’m not sure if we or someone else did it, but one of the data pins snapped off as we were shuffling the blades around. The new rail-based alignment system is way better than the old blade mounting system, but those pins still make me nervous.
Whether you’re running a single server on each blade or a virtualized environment; the Dell M-Series blade server should be able to save you bucks on your energy bill. It will also save your hearing since with all those remote control features, you’ll make fewer trips into the server room. Heck, the boot manager even gives you a way to set up a “one-time boot” from virtual or USB-connected devices so that you don’t have to worry about hitting the “any key” to boot from the CD-ROM. So save time, money, and your hearing -- what more can you want? Just don’t cheap out and ignore the wonderfully useful iKVM option; it will save you time and confusion.