Qualifications: I am the manager (Network Administrator) of a medium-sized server farm in the Mid-West, which consists of some 150 Dell PowerEdge servers of various models and designs. These models include 1750, 1850, 1950, 2650, 2850, 2500, 2600, 2850, and 2950 servers, running Windows 2003 Standard Server or Windows 2003 Standard and Enterprise Edition.
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Disclaimer: This review is intended for those with intermediate or advanced server knowledge, or those individuals seeking in-depth information on Enterprise caliber server equipment. Few if any of the terms used throughout the review are expounded upon.
Servers, they come in all sizes and perform a myriad of duties in any modern data center. From application servers, to populating databases, from file servers to print servers, from mail services to collaboration services, the modern server is indeed to backbone of any modern business, be it large or small.
In my capacity as a network administrator I have worked on and administered all manner of server platform from all of the major vendors: IBM, Hewlett Packard, Compaq, and Dell. But for the last four years I have worked almost exclusively with Dell server platforms of all sizes, from the small 1Us to the larger 6U multi-hard drive, multi-processor rack mountable boxes. So I have lived through to evolution of the Dell 2000 series of 2U rack mount servers, the latest of which is the PowerEdge 2950, a few of which we have just started to receive in our datacenter.
The PE 2950 and PE 1950, which I discussed in an earlier review, are similar in many respects. The primary difference between the two is the storage capacity; the PE 2950 doubles and in some designs triples the internal storage capacity of the server. And some iterations of the PE 2950 are capable of utilizing the Intel Xeon Quad-core Intel 5000/5100 series processors.
In The Box
Dell PowerEdge 2950 2U Server
Installation CD and manuals
Dell Open Manage 5.1 software
Server Drives and Utilities
The Dell PowerEdge 2950 is the follow-on the very successful multi-use PowerEdge 2U rack mount server boxes, and as I mentioned above is in almost every respect a larger PowerEdge 1950 with much larger storage capacity. Like the PowerEdge 2650, and the 2850, the PE 2950 is fairly small server, just a little thicker than the PE 1950; the smallest rack mountable footprint available from Dell. As a result everything about the PE 2950 is compact, but amazingly easy to access; the top cover comes completely off the unit exposing the motherboard, processor assemblies, RAM slots, cooling fans, and other essential components.
Like its small brother the Dell PE 1950, the Dell PE 2950 is the computer companys ninth-generation server platform and features the most comprehensive enhancements ever to the widely installed PowerEdge family of servers. The new PE 2950 servers integrate high-performance Dual-core Intel Xeon 5000 and 5100 series (previously codenamed "Dempsey" and Woodcrest) processors that feature higher clock speeds, lower power consumption (up to 25%) and enhancements in memory technology. And they do so without increased complexity or cost. For example Intel and Dell claim that 1U and 2U PE servers powered by the Intel Xeon 5100 series processors can deliver up to a 152 percent performance increase over the previous generation PowerEdge servers.
Other enhancements over the last generation of PowerEdge servers include fully buffered DIMMs in up to eight slots; SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) hard drives; TCP/IP Offload Engine, and enhanced virtualization technology which Dell claims will improve overall server performance in virtualized server environments such as Xen, Microsoft Virtual Server, and or VMware ESX. We use virtualized server environments extensively throughout our organization, and the performance has been marginal on some Dell server platforms. So any improvement in this area is certainly welcome.
Dell also lays claim to the an industry first programmable diagnostic front-panel LCD; as well as a standardized system image (i.e., BIOS, drivers, operating systems and applications) that allows an administrator to manage three server platforms: PowerEdge 1950, 2950 and 2900.
The PE 2950 server supports dual 64-bit Intel Xeon dual-core 5000 or 5100 processors with processor clock speeds of: 5000 Sequence: 667MHz or 1066MHz; 5100 Sequence: 1066MHz or 1333MHz and up to 4MB of L2 level cache (2MB cache per core). Like the PE 1950, the PE 2950 uses the Intel 5000x chipset that supports two 64-bit PCI-X slots, a maximum 32GB of DDR2 667 SDRAM in eight slots.
The PE 2950 ships with the new PERC 5/i for (RAID) control of SAS 3.0 Gb/s hard drives with 256MB of memory. Optionally the PE 2950 can be ordered with traditional PERC 4e/DC dual-channel PCI Express controller, or the PERC 5/E adapter for external RAID storage.
The PE 2950 (base) is capable of housing up to (8) 2.5 inch SAS /SATA hot-pluggable (swappable) hard drives, or up to (6) 3.5 inch SAS /SATA hard drives (10k or 15k). Hard drive sizes can range in size from 36GB 300GB for up to 1.8TB of storage SAS, and up to 4.5TB SATA. This can further be broken down thusly:
o 2.5" SAS (10k rpm): 36GB or 73GB hot-plug hard drives;
o 3.5" SAS (10k rpm): 73GB, 146GB, 300GB hot-plug hard drives;
o 3.5" SAS (15k rpm): 36GB, 73GB, 146GB hot-plug hard drives;
o 3.5" SATA (7.2k rpm): 80GB, 160GB, 250GB, 500GB, 700GB hot-plug hard drives
The PE 2950 can also use external storage provided by the Dell PowerVault 22xS, PowerVault MD1000, and a wide range of Dell/EMC products. For backup and archiving vital system and data files, the PE 2950 has the capacity to interface with Dells PowerVault External SCSI storage units; i.e. PowerVault DAT 72, 110T, 114T, 122T, 124T, 132T, 136T, and 160T and ML6000.
The PE 2950 makes data fault tolerance effortless and affordable through the inclusion of RAID by providing an optional high performance embedded (single-channel) PERC5/i RAID controller with Intel IOP333 processor that includes 256MB of battery backup cache. SAS /SATA hard drive control is accomplished by the (optional) PERC 5/i(base) four port controller with ARM966 processor that does not support RAID. The server can optionally be ordered with the PERC4/DC RAID embedded adapter, and or the PERC5/E external RAID adapter.
The PE 2950 can be factory-installed with Microsoft's Windows 2000, Windows 2003 R2 Server Standard or Enterprise Server (including x64) Network Operating Systems (NOS), or Red Hat's Linux Enterprise v4 ES/WS EM64T.
Dell has given the PE 2950 many distinctive design features that make the server easy to deploy, service, and manage locally or remotely, thereby lowering the total cost of ownership, or TOC. The PE 2950 continues Dells simple to use tool-less chassis, which enables me to quickly and simply reach components for easy maintenance; the motherboard for instance can be completely swapped out in under a five minutes, and virtually everything inside the chassis can be removed for easy replacement.
Dells Open Manage suite of software enhances manageability, from initial server start-up through everyday operations by allowing for server hardware management via a web interface. Combining performance, availability and configuration (especially hard drive configuration) flexibility, the PE 2950 server is an ideal solution for any size business environment. Small businesses will find the PE 2950 small enough to deploy just about anywhere, while large enterprises will find the rack mounts ideal for stacking.
Installation and Performance:
Our PowerEdge 2950s servers arrive configured as follows:
(2) Intel Xeon 5100 Processors @ 3.0GHz/2MB Level 2 ECC Cache/ 667 FSB.
4GB DDR2 SDRAM 667MHz (4x1GB).
o Hard Drive Bays:
o Two populated 2.5 hot-swappable SAS; Maximum internal storage=600GB SAS /SATI
o Hard Drive(s):
2 X 36GB 15K RPM SAS Hard Drives.
o Hard Drive Controller:
PERC5/i 256MB (1 Internal Channel).
o NIC (1):
(2) On-board Broadcom NetXtreme II 5708 Gigabit 10/100/1000 Network Adapters with load balancing and fail-over;
o NIC (2):
o TOE (TCP/IP Offload Engine) supported on Microsoft Windows Server 2003, SP1 or higher with Scalable Networking Pack;
o Embedded ATI ES1000 with 16MB SDRAM;
o CD-ROM Drive:
24X IDE DVD Drive for PowerEdge Servers.
o USB Ports: two, (2) front /(2) rear;
o Power Supplies: 670 watt hot-swappable.
Our servers arrived from Dell without a NOS installed, as usual; however utilizing Dells Open Manage softwarenow up to version 5.1I could install Windows 2003 Server without a hitch if I wanted to, but our first complement of PE 2950s would be SAN (Storage Area Network) attached. The servers would also boot from SAN which means I needed to install Windows 2003 Standard Edition without the use of Open Manage.
This became a problem because Windows did not recognize the add-in fiber cards needed to attach to the SAN volume wherein I would need to install the OS. The problem lay in the lack of a 3.5 inch floppy which I needed to install the third party drives Windows needed to attach to the SAN. So, we ordered a USB floppy drive which worked flawlessly and resolved the issue.
A word about Dell OpenManage: Dell continues to lead the field in server integrated deployment and management with it superb Open Manage (OM) application. Utilizing the Linux OS OM 5.1 allows an administrator to configure the server in a few seamless steps, first configuring the server, then installing the OS. The enhanced systems management capabilities and tight (OS) partner integration give customers greater flexibility, security and control over their server environment.
OM 5.1 delivers comprehensive hardware deployment, monitoring and management with features including:
o DRAC5 (Dell Remote Access Controller) for improved performance in secure remote management;
o Integrated hardware and software management with partner applications like Altiris Server Management Suite, Microsoft SMS and MOM, and Novell ZENworks Linux; Management - Dell Edition, providing single console management of enterprise resources
o Dell OpenManage Connections, which allows comprehensive hardware monitoring within industry management frameworks;
o IMPI 2.0 and SMASH, which deliver simplified management capabilities today and in the future via a standardized management infrastructure;
o Improved Linux Integration with full support for Novell SuSE Linux SLES9;
o Improved integration between Dell OpenManage and VMware ESX 3.0, allowing simplified monitoring for customers' hardware devices dedicated to virtual machines.
The front of our black PE 2950s is taken up mostly by six 3.5 inch SAS drive bays, but only two are populated. To the far left are (2) USB ports, a monitor output, and a small blue LCD panel for diagnostics. Underneath the LCD screen sits the DVD drive; the server does not ship with a floppy drive. The front of the unit is covered with a removable, lockable black and silver bezel with a cut out for the aforementioned blur LCD panel in the upper left. The round silver Dell logo is placed in the center of the faceplate.
The back of the PE 2950 is equally as compact; here you will find a serial port, embedded video port; dual NICs, another (2) USB ports, and the ubiquitous mouse, and keyboard ports, as well as two hot-swappable 750W redundant power supplies.
We have just started integrating the PE 2950 into our data center and we primarily utilize the servers as web application front-end servers, a role for which they are ideally suited. However, because the PE 2950 is highly scalable, the box could just as easily be used as a departmental file, or specialized server such as a Windows 2003 domain controller, but the limited redundancy make this a risky proposition for an Enterprise. However a small or medium sized company this functionality might be acceptable.
The dual core Intel 5100 processors coupled with fast RAM and 15K SAS hard drives make the PE 2950 a performance star. Actual, real world throughput (file transfers to and from the server), is outstanding, especially when it comes to serving up web pages and or SAN Front-end performance. The PE 2950s in our inventory are at the top of the performance curve, and they are dependable and boost enough power to meet all of current and future application needs.
If you are looking for a reliable, versatile, powerful and reasonably priced application server, the small-footprint Dell PE 2950 Enterprise-class application server will most certainly fit the bill.
PowerEdge 2950 Features
Processors: Up to two Intel Xeon 5000 or 5100 (dual or quad core) processors with Intel Extended memory technology at up to 3.6GHz
Front Side Bus: 667MHz to 1333MHz
Cache: Up to 4MB per core
Memory: 256MB/512MB/1GB/2GB/4GB 667MHz DDR2 in pairs for two-way interleaving. Eight DDR2 sockets for support up to 32GB of main memory.
I/O slots: three expansion slots; 2 x 64-bit PCI-X; 1 x PCI Express x8.
Drive controllers: Embedded PERC integrated PCI SAS controller.
RAID controllers: Embedded PERC 5/i, PERC4e/Di (single channel RAID with 256MB of battery-backup cache)
Drive bays: Standard internal hard drive bays to support up to (8) 2.5 SAS/ SATA hard drives with Dell hot-plug drives, or up to (6) 3.5 inch hard drives.
Hard drives: 36GB, 73GB, 146GB, 300GB (10,000 rpm) hot-plug SAS; 36GB, 80GB, 160GB, 250GB (7200 rpm) hot-plug SATA hard drives; 36GB, 73GB, 146GB (15,000 rpm) hot-plug SAS hard drives; maximum internal storage up to 600GB.
Tape backup options:
o --External: PowerVault 120T DDS4 Autoloader (160GB/320GB); PowerVault 120T DLT1 Autoloader (280GB/560GB); PowerVault 122/128T LTO Mini-Library (2TB/4TB); PowerVault 128T SDLT Mini-Library (2.2TB/4.4TB); PowerVault 136T SDLT Library (6.6TB/13.2TB); PowerVault 136T LTO Library (7.2TB/14.4TB).
Network interface card: Dual embedded Broadcom or Intel Gibabit NICs; a variety of different options are available.
Power Supplies: 750W hot-plug/redundant.
Chassis: 2U tower or rack-mountable chassis.
Video: Embedded ATI ES1000 with 16MB SDRAM
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