Dell PowerEdge R720 review

Dell’s new PowerEdge R720 combines Intel’s eagerly awaited Xeon E5-2600 processors with a wealth of new features. Is this the best-designed 2U rack server on the market? Read Dave Mitchell’s exclusive review to find out.

6 Mar, 2012
ex VAT (as reviewed)
As a general-purpose 2U rack server, the PowerEdge R720 looks capable of running any application that can be thrown at it. Its massive memory capacity and hypervisor redundancy make it ideal for virtualisation, while the storage capacity, expansion potential and remote management are excellent. Plus, of course, it supports Intel’s very latest Xeon E5-2600 processors.

With the launch of its twelfth generation of PowerEdge servers, Dell takes an early lead over HP and IBM by being the first to deliver a production server with Intel’s new Xeon E5-2600 processors. In this exclusive review we look at the new PowerEdge R720, which sees a complete redesign over the R710.

Dell PowerEdge R720

Storage potential sees huge improvements, as this 2U chassis has room for up eight hot-swap LFF or sixteen SFF hard disks — twice that of the R710. Dell also uniquely offers a version with four standard SSF bays and four hot-plug PCI-e Express Flash SSDs.

Dell also offers the R720xd (‘extreme disk’) version that uses a different chassis. Available as a separate order, it has been modified to provide 24 hot-swap SFF bays at the front and two more at the back.

The system on review came equipped with a pair of 2.7GHz Intel Xeon E5-2680 processors. These use the new 32nm ‘Sandy-Bridge-EP’ (efficient performance) architecture that sees inter-socket QPI links doubled and their speeds boosted to 8GT/s (gigatransfers per second).

The E5-2680 is near the top of this group of 8-core server CPUs, with its large 20MB L3 cache and support for Intel’s new Turbo Boost 2.0. The latter allows cores to be speeded up briefly beyond their TDP rating. During idle periods, the system accumulates a thermal budget and in times of increased activity, this is used to boost core performance for up to 25 seconds.

Dell PowerEdge R720

The server’s excellent internal design has allowed Dell to pack in an impressive range of features.

The E5-2600 Xeons have four memory channels per socket and the R720 has the full 24 DIMM slots onboard. Memory can be boosted up to a massive 768GB in dual-CPU systems using 32GB RDIMMs, or the new LR-DIMM (Load Reduced) modules.


Chassis: 2U rack

CPU: 2x 2.7GHz Xeon E5-2680

Memory: 64GB DDR3 expandable to 768GB (using RDIMM or LR-DIMM)

Storage: 5x 300GB Dell SAS 2 SFF 10K hot-swap hard disks (max. 16)

RAID: Dell PERC H710P Mini with 512MB cache/BBU

Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 6

Expansion: 7x PCI-e Gen3 slots (with dual CPUs)

Network: 4x Gigabit Ethernet

Power: 2x 750W hot-plug supplies

Management: Dell iDRAC7 Enterprise with 10/100

Software: Dell Management Console

Warranty: 3-year on-site NBD

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