Wednesday, September 7

Dell PowerEdge SC1425 review

Since I never can find a review of servers before I buy them I thought it was my responsibility to do one myself.

The SC1425 is thought to be a HPC-node or similar where more than one box is used. It gives good performance at a good price. But provides close to no redundancy, dual drives is about it. We will use our boxes as load balanced application servers where it doesn't really matter if one box fail as long as it is repaired in a reasonable time.
Starting price point in the UK is £339, the review spec. lists at £880.

Specs for my review box:

  • Dell PowerEdge SC1425
  • Singel Intel Xeon 3.2GHz
  • 2Gb DDR2 ECC memory (4x512Mb modules)
  • 2x 80Gb 7200rpm SATA drives
  • Dual port Intel Pro1000 Gigabit Ethernet
  • Intel SATA controller
  • Single PSU
  • 1U rack-mount kit
  • No CD, no DVD, no floppy (Yes! the way I want it!)

    See the Dell website for full specs.

    Rack mounted in 4 minutes, nice snap-in rails.
    I wrote a quick kickstart script for CentOS 4.
    The PXE prompt appeared as it should I after entering my kickstart file and pressing enter twice it took about 30 minutes and voilaia, I had a clean login prompt and a pre-configured system. Quite lengthy install you might think but keep in mind that I did not have a hardware RAID controller in the box (£135 extra option) so I opted to build software-raid MD devices during the install so just syncing them took an extra 15 minutes.
    Clean and simple, no hickups. All the hardware was supported, no problems with anything so far. [dmesg].
    Logged in thru SSH and did a yum -y upgrade to get the latest kernel etc, nice 180Mb download. *sigh*

    During the startup I had seen a cool IPMI prompt flash by so I just had to reboot and check it out. The IPMI/BMC interface will give you some very basic remote managemepossibilitiestes outside the OS level. Like power cycle the machine or check sensor temperatures. Keep in mind you need a Dell patched ipmitool for use with Dell servers (bastards). Configured an IP for the IPMI card (which actually uses eth0 as it's mgmt interface) and set it to our mgmt vlan (yes, had to tag the port in the switch as well). Easy enough. All worked straight out. I could not find an option to switch on or off the gimp light.
    The IPMI facility does not compare to the LOM cards in Sun boxes or the addon RAC cards from Dell, no remote console etc. But it does the trick to power cycle a frozen server. Totally acceptable for the price.

    The SC1425 is very fast for the price, chipset is alright and I guess the only performance draw back is expected. The onboard SATA controller and software-raid.
    CPU crunching and memory access is quite good.
    During a the pgbench runs I got about 20% iowait which is far from good. But fixing this adds another £250 to the box price (PERC + SCSI drives).

    PGBENCH results.
    [root@ron1 pgbench]# ./pgbench -t 50 -c 50
    starting vacuum...end.
    transaction type: TPC-B (sort of)
    scaling factor: 1
    number of clients: 50
    number of transactions per client: 50
    number of transactions actually processed: 2500/2500
    tps = 149.314233 (including connections establishing)
    tps = 150.790507 (excluding connections establishing)
    [root@ron1 pgbench]# ./pgbench -t 50 -c 100
    starting vacuum...end.
    transaction type: TPC-B (sort of)
    scaling factor: 1
    number of clients: 100
    number of transactions per client: 50
    number of transactions actually processed: 5000/5000
    tps = 139.651475 (including connections establishing)
    tps = 140.947096 (excluding connections establishing)

    Compiling PostGRES 8.0.3
    time make -j3 
    real 1m58.274s
    user 3m22.002s
    sys 0m13.220s

    My full impression of the Dell PowerEdge SC1425 is quite good. Price wise it is really good, performance is good and redundancy is as expected. I would never recommend someone to use this machine as a database server or office file server. It should purely to be used in farms of two or more boxes. Web servers, Citrix servers, application nodes or pure HPC.
    They could have added a few more remote management features.

    More pictures

    * Note, all picture are taken with a Ericsson K750i mobile phone, quite good phone I must say. Thanks John.

    The SC1425 is known to work flawlessly under Solaris 10 so if I manage to get some time I will try to install it and check it out.

    Anonymous said...

    appreciate the review - excellent pics - like you have problems finding server reviews and that was a good one.


    Anonymous said...

    Thanks, appreciated here too. Greetings from Finland! j

    Unknown said...

    Well, at least my SC1425's have remote console on their basic remote controllers. It just isn't supported by ipmitools but can be accessed otherwise. Great _when_ Linux doesn't boot and you can't/don't want to go to the server.

    Anonymous said...

    On ours, I couldn't seem to turn hyperthreading on. Did you have any luck?

    Anonymous said...

    Hey there mate,

    well, i am trying to get an external tape drive for this server and wondering if an Adaptec 39160 SCSI card could be installed in the available expansion slot.

    I got more confused when two of the Dell technical consultants gave different information. One of them said SCSI card will not be install (particularly in this PowerEdge SC1425) because the size of the slot and the SCSI card are not same. The other said it will install all good.

    Any help in this will be appreciated.

    Gastone said...

    Excellent Review! After it, I am considering on getting one to replace other machines. Greetings from Canada.

    Anonymous said...

    SC1425 is a great machine. A bargin at $1000 used. SCSI cards work fine. LSI or Adaptec are supported in the PCIX slot. We have 30 at our work. Very solid. Wish I had one at home :)

    Anonymous said...

    Hey Jeff,

    If you can tell me which adaptec card have you got installed it would be a great help.

    ZURV said...

    I'm looking to purchase a PowderEdge SC1425, however I want to install two 750GB and run them as RAID1 (Mirror).

    I find many posts of users having problems putting large drives in this machine, many say the system stops responding...

    Any experience with this? It's the only thing stopping me from purchasing one.

    Thank you!

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    Manney said...

    Thanks for the review, I've just bought 5 of these servers, off ebay for £125 each, and i think they are fantastic value. I installed two WD 500GB sata drives and used the onboard sata card to create a mirror.

    I did however have to jumper the sata drives to force them into SATA1.5 mode. In native SATA3.0 mode the mirror build froze after a couple of mins into the build. But I have been running two of the servers with 2003 server for the last couple of months and so far, touch wood, they have not missed a beat.

    Would like to know if anyone has tried and larger drives, 1TB 1.5 2TB? Not got any to try myself

    Anonymous said...

    Did anyone try to replace the sata hdd in this with SSD?

    I getting my OS (windows) booted up until it start loading the user profile then it goes crazy (tried multiple times). The screen and the hdd led both blinks like hell and it stops loading.

    Well thats just great... Now I must have the trashy hdd to be connected in order to boot up.

    Unknown said...

    thanks!! I'm waiting on my sc1425 to come in the mail. Your review was complete and the pictures were great. Nice coming from a phone! -rk

    Unknown said...

    i am running an 80gb and a 1tb drive in mine and it works just fine.
    its running ESXi with 5 vm's.

    Ken Hansen said...

    I got Windows Server 2008 R2 installed without incident on my SC1425 - had an issue with the video driver, driver from install DVD only drives the Radeon 7000m to 800x600. Found an IBM signed, x64 bit driver that supports up to 1280x1024 (native res of my display, couldn't go higher).

    Driver is here:

    Good luck!

    (my machine was bought off eBay for under $300 with dual 3.2 GHz Xeons, 2x 73 Gig SCSI drives and 8 Gig (4x 2 Gig) of RAM with rack rails. Very happy with purchase)

    Unknown said...

    Great review!
    I'm gonna buy 1 of these unit to use it as web server.
    I'd like to know if the server is very loud to place it in my house (i know it's a rack server so it's obvious it won't be quiet as a pc). Just to know the amount of noise.
    Thanks in advance for the info!

    Scott J said...

    @noel82. Have one in my house. It's loud. It's 50 ft from my home office in the front of my house to my bedroom in the back. Even with the the office door closed I can still hear it.

    Unknown said...

    The only supported versions of Windows Server 2003 are standard and web. Any reason why enterprise should not work? Anyone put enterprise on one?

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