Tuesday, October 3

Dell 9th generation servers

Quick overview of Dells 9th generations rack-mount server line up

It's been a couple of months now since Dell introduced the first machines in the new "9th generation" server line-up, the PowerEdge 1950, 2950, 2900 and the Blade 1955 all looked like quite nice machines, they can be fitted with the new DRAC/5 card and onboard PERC.
And they have recently been accompanied by slightly simpler (and more cost effective) SC1435 and the baby 860.

All machines use the new generation Intel processors (64-bit), FB-DIMM memory and SAS and/or SATA disk drives.
I'm not going to go on about products specs and other sales crap, you can find all that on the Dell website. Just my view on the machines and what they are suitable for. Everything from using Linux as the OS on the box. Solaris 10 is currently not confirmed as working, using 06/06 you still need a driver disk for the PERC card and ethernet is unsupported so you need a addon Intel PCI card to even make use of the server.

Dell PowerEdge 1950
Nice 1U pizza box machine. I would use this as an application or web server, if you equip it with the 4 2.5" disk backplane you could possibly have a very small database on it. Disk I/O is very likely to be a bottle neck though. Hooking it up to a SAN is another option. Good layout of the internal components and the back connectors are easy to access. The PCIe slots are a bit limited in lenght, but then again there aren't many long cards available any more (anyone remember the old full lenght PCI raid cards?). Quite redundant with dual "most things".
To summarize, a perfect box for a Apache HTTPd or Java app server.
Starting price in a usable spec: $3437

Dell PowerEdge 2950
Pretty much the same machine as the 1950 but with more I/O. Six 3.5" drives or eight 2.5" drives. Decent small office file server, takes 1.8Tb internally (3Tb if you go SATA), room for extra Ethernet cards if you want to run iSCSI. Would also be a good "all in all" intranet server, put Postgres, PHP, Postifx and few other things on it. Or install a Zimbra and use it as a e-mail server.
Slap 8 2.5" drives in it and it is a nice decent DB server. If you team up a group of these and hook them up to a SAN they make great RAC-nodes. As the 1950 it is fairly redundant and can be trusted to work by itself for non-critical things.
Starting price in a usable spec: $3757

Dell PowerEdge 2900
Not really a rack-mount box but it does come with a rackmount kit. Only included here as it is the only "one box solution" for larger installations such as a Oracle EE, mid-sized file server or even a large e-mail server. Takes up to 10 internal drives (8 + 2 cage), thats 3Tb with current SAS drives. Lots of PCIe I/O, six slots for HBAs and NICs. If you like virtualization it would make a great VMWare box, it takes an impressive 48Gb RAM (you don't want to see the price tag for this though).
5U in a rack though, I hope you're not paying per U if you colocate it.
Starting price in a usable spec: $4370

Dell PowerEdge 860
This one I don't really understand. First of all, who came up with the name 860, it is clearly a 950. Second of all I don't really get where this box is meant to be used, the SC1435 is a better choice in 90% of all cases. The only advantage over the SC1435 is the fact that it has the normal kick ass DRAC/5 card as an option. It takes Celeron, Pentium D and Xeon 3000 series processors, I really *really* recommend against using a Celeron proc in anything that goes in a rack.
Possible uses (if I have to) would be a DNS server, mail relay, basic web server or management server.
Starting price in a usable spec: $1391

Dell PowerEdge SC1435
This little guy is not officially out yet, should be available in the comming weeks. The tower equivalent SC1430 is currently available though. I must admit that this is probably one of my favorites in the line-up, not because it's a great flexible, highly redundant machine. But simply because it's cheap and gets the job done! No hot swap anything. This is probably the perfect app or web server for larger load balanced solutions. This is however an AMD Opteron Socket-F server, not a Intel as the other. Quite confusing to be honest. I would have hoped that Dell launched a completely new line for the opteron gear.
I would not consider this box unless I was installing at least 4 (or possibly even 6) nodes for a single deployment. If they fail, you'll have a longer down time period than most other boxes since you probably have to get it out of the rack to service it. But it's cheap and just get things done. I can imagine many high performance computing farms rubbing their hands when they see this box, it's very suitable for a Linux beowulf cluster.
You can read my review of the older SC1425.
Starting price in a usable spec: $2900 (estimated)

Dell PowerEdge 1955
The Blade server in the new family. Data processing, web servers, app servers and possibly other uses if you add the FC daughter card. Quite decent machines and as a 1855 admin I'm very pleased so far.
One thing to remember though, the 1955/1855 chassis backplane is not redunant, deploy in groups of two chassis and at least 8 servers to make them cost effective. Price excluding chassis, which usually comes in at about $3000 with redundant PSU's, DRAC, IP-KVM and a pair of switch modules.
Starting price in usable spec: $2516

Regarding the price, the starting list price on Dells website is unusable. One disk drive included, way to little RAM, no DRAC card etc. All machines have been speced out to a suitable minimal config for actuall deployment use with redundant PSU's, a PERC card, at least 2Gb RAM etc and Bronze NBD support. The size and usage of the box has also been considered, as an example the 2900 was fitted with six drives since it's main purpose is disk and I/O expandability.

For Solaris 10 support see this post.


Anonymous said...

Hi Halis, thanx a lot for your Dell product overview, it looks great. I was wodnering if you had chance to test Solaris 10 on a 1435/1950/2950? Does it detect the onboard SATA controller and nics out of the box?
Thanx in advance for your time.



Hampus said...

Hi Nettie,
I haven't had time to try Solaris 10 yet. However, the PERC controller is not detected out of the box. You need to download a driver disk from the LSI Logic website, the PERC/5i is ment to be a re-branded LSI 8408.
I strongly recommend that you use the latest Solaris 10 version, update 2 (also known as 06/06) or wait a month or so for update 3 (which will be known as 11/06). The NIC should work since it is a fairly standard Broadcom chipset.
There aren't many reports on the net so I'd be happy if you would leave any feedback of your success. I'll try to get around to testing Solaris 10 on a 1950 myself.

The SC1435 is a bit different as it is using another motherboard and IO chipset, the Broadcom HT-1000 (HT for hypertransport, pretty cool), I've seen not reports about this either. But since Sun and Broadcom are good buddies I would guess it's in Solars 10 update 3.

Anonymous said...

Hi hampus, thanx for your reply. We tested the SC1435 with Sun install check 1.1 and I'm glad to tell you that it's fully supported. That particular box had the perc raid controller and the utility suggested us to download the driver from LSI website (exactly like you said in you r post), the onboard controller was identified and supported. Unfortunately I was not able to test further because we had to specifically install linux on it, but I think we'll get another one pretty soon and give you more details. What about the SC1950? Did you find the time to do some compatibility/support checks please? That box looks very similar to the SC2950 which I'm close to buy for a Solaris based project this time, so I'm actually pretty interested in.

Thanx a lot in advance.



Tirumal said...

Dear all when i am booting my dell poweredge 2900 server with my debian linux2.6.8 kernel it was unable to detect the sas hard disks. please anyone suggest to me how to do.

Hampus said...

Kernel 2.6.8 is way to old to have the Perc5 controllers as default, there are back ports in other distros.

I would suggest installing Etch or if you want Sarge you can use these custom images (kernel 2.6.19).

Anonymous said...


I've installed Solaris 10 11/06 on a PowerEdge 1955 blade, works almost out of the box. You only need to download the Broadcom BNX2 Ethernet driver from Broadcom's site.

Anonymous said...

Have anyone succesfully installed Ubuntu on 1955? Ubuntu was unable to detect hard disks!

Best Regards,


Hampus said...

Ubuntu should work fine on the 1955s, most other distros find the disks just fine. The onboard SAS controller uses the standard MPT driver which has been fully supported for quite some time.
I have 1955's in production running both 2.4 and 2.6 kernels (CentOS 3 and CentOS 4).
Unless someone has done so already it should be fairly straight forward to build a custom kernel.

Have a look at these Ubuntu bugs:
37452 and 75365.

Barry said...

Hi Halis

I actually have a Dell 2950, and have been unable to get Solaris 10 installed on it. I saw that you said the PERC/5i is a rebranded LSI 8408. I checked the lsi website, and found the MEGARAID SAS 8408E, but don't find a solaris driver for it. I was wondering if you downloaded the driver for one of the other OS's? Oh, also in addition, my 2950 doesn't have a floppy, so could I just copy the files to a cd?

Any help would be greatly appreaciated.

Thanks for your time


BZ said...

Article about poor Dell 1950 IO performance:

Anonymous said...

I have install debian from (kernel on our 2900, but it can't detect ethernet card.
I have used 'lspci -v' , but didn't see any chipset named in "Boardcom" or bnx2 by 'lsmod'. Do you have any suggestion ?

Richard said...

The big benefit that the inexpensive little 860 has is as a database node if you're running something like Oracle at $15k/proc (list, not real). You can use standard edition in a cluster with four socketed processors, which means you can use four individual 860s each with a single quad-core xeon running around $3300 each.

At least you could if they supported a FC card in them. Which you can add, but I'm wondering why its not a standard Dell option. Hmm. But the ability to use a quad-core rocks when you're paying software licenses per socket.

The next solid alternative is a 1950, which optioned the same way (with only a single processor - I want one box per proc for maximum failover power) runs closer to $6,000, admittedly including the dual-channel FC card.

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