Dell PowerEdge M1000e review

Reviews 20 Dec, 2013

Dell beefs up its blade server with higher CPU densities, an innovative IP SAN blade and 40GbE converged Ethernet.

5
Price: 
From £9,655 ex VAT
Pros: 
Good value; Excellent build quality; Wide choice of server blades and I/O modules; IP SAN blade
Cons: 
No chassis power graphing and reporting
Verdict: 
The M1000e has benefitted from a consistent development program and offers some unique and innovative features. An excellent choice for server consolidation duties, it’s well designed and the new storage and server blades make it more versatile.

When we reviewed Dell’s M1000e blade server back in 2010 its combination of features, value and design resulted in a coveted IT Pro Recommended award. Dell hasn’t rested on its laurels in the intervening period and in another exclusive review, we bring you the low-down on the latest features.

Server blade and I/O interconnect options are more extensive and management see major improvements. The new M420 server blade boosts processing density while the PS-M4110 blade adds Dell’s EqualLogic IP SAN technology.

The 10U chassis receives a mid-plane update so that its three interconnect fabrics now all support 10GbE speeds. Existing customers needn’t worry as older chassis can be updated in the field with a new mid-plane if required.

Dell offers an ever increasing choice of interconnect modules. Along with Brocade 16Gbps Fibre Channel there are Dell’s MXL and I/ O aggregation switch blades which deliver the same features and 40GbE uplinks as its S-Series data centre switches.

The M420 quarter-height server blade offers a greatly increased CPU density

The M420 packs the CPUs in

Dell offers server blades supporting dual E5-2400, dual E5-2600 V2 and quad E5-4600 CPUs. AMD fans get the older M915 with its quad Opteron 6300s and all accept a range of LOM and mezzanine expansion cards.

The new M420 blade requires a sleeve which converts one of the eight full-height vertical bays into four quarter-height slots. It supports dual E5-2400 CPUs and can handle up to 192GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 memory.

A dual 10GbE LOM card comes as standard and there’s room for a mezzanine card for 10GbE, Infiniband or Fibre Channel connections. The latter connects to Fabric B or C which is determined by its physical location in the chassis.

The two hot-plug bays support 1.8in SSDs and are managed by an embedded PERC H310 RAID chip. Two slots on the side accept SD cards for hypervisor redundancy with the second also providing VFlash storage for the embedded iDRAC7 management controller.

The PS-M4110 allows a complete EqualLogic IP SAN solution to be deployed in the M1000e

IP SAN on a blade

The PS-M4110 blade offers precisely the same storage features as Dell’s EqualLogic PS4000 and PS6000 appliances. The combination of Dell’s automatic tiered storage and hybrid array of SSDs and SAS hard disks is designed to deliver the high IOPS needed by mission critical apps.

The PS-M4110 is a totally standalone IP SAN on a blade. It’s managed and configured in exactly the same way as the standard appliances and can make accelerated storage available to any server blade, or external server for that matter.

This double-width, half-height blade has 14 hot-swap SFF bays accessed from the top. Status lights at the front are provided for all bays and pressing the front of the blade causes it to pop out so you can swap out disks or add extra ones without bringing the blade down.

The PS-M4110 blade has exactly the same management interface and features as the EqualLogic PS4000 and PS6000 appliances

MXL and IOA blades

The MXL switch blade delivers the same converged Ethernet features that we looked at in our exclusive review of Dell’s S4820T data centre switch. It’s equivalent to the S4810T and has 32 internal 10GbE ports, two external 40GbE QSFP+ fibre uplinks and two expansion slots for additional dual 40GbE, quad port Gigabit SFP+ or quad port 1000BaseT modules.

Up to six blades can be placed in a stack which can be extended across multiple M1000e chassis. Dell’s VLT (virtual link trunking) allows two blades to be placed in a high availability domain where they are connected via their 40GbE ports. 

The IOA version is a zero-touch I/O aggregator switch that is deployed fully auto-configured.  It’s designed for IT environments with clear demarcations of responsibilities between their server and network divisions. 

 The new Chassis Group feature allows multiple M1000e systems to be monitored from one console

Power and chassis management

The dual redundant CMCs (chassis management controllers) deliver power management improvements. They monitor overall consumption, park any PSUs that aren’t needed but always maintain N+1 redundancy. 

A power budget can be applied to the entire chassis and if this threshold is breached you can set priorities for each server blade where they can be throttled back or powered down to ensure critical blades stay running.

AC redundancy allows two groups of three PSUs to be connected to separate power grids. Power is balanced between them and if one grid fails, power is distributed equally between the remaining PSUs. Features still missing from the console are real-time and historical graphical reporting on chassis power consumption.

The new Chassis Group feature allows up to nine chassis to be managed from the same interface. One chassis is nominated as the leader to which all other chassis connect for management access. 

This means you only need to go to the group leader’s console to access all other members. Each member can be distributed across various remote sites as they only need IP connectivity to the leader to be accessed.

Conclusion

The PowerEdge M1000e impresses with its design and features and the new hardware options make it even better. Chassis management plus blade and I/O module choices have been significantly improved and it has a few tricks up its sleeve that the competition can’t match. 

Specifications: 

Chassis: 10U rack

Blade slots: 8 x full-height, 16 x half-height, 32 x quarter height

I/O modules: 6 x interconnect bays

Power: 2700W hot-plug PSUs (max 6) 

Cooling: 9 x hot-plug fan modules

Management: Dell CMC (max 2)

Minimum spec: Chassis, 3 x 2700W PSUs, 9 x cooling fans, pass-through I/O module, 1 x CMC

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