Dell PowerEdge R330 review

This Skylake rack server will give your business the edge

Reviews
11 Feb, 2016
4
Price 
£1811
ex VAT
Pros 
Fast; High storage capacity; Plenty of upgrade options, Quality remote management
Cons 
Slightly noisy cooling fans; Confusing storage options
Verdict 
A versatile and powerful Xeon E3 v5 rack server that’s good value with plenty of expansion options and a generous remote management toolbox

SMBs and remote offices looking for their first rack server should check out Dell’s PowerEdge R330 as it has a lot to offer. Succeeding the venerable twelfth-generation R320, it supports the latest ‘Skylake’ Xeon E3-1200 v5 processors and DDR4 memory plus it has improved storage options and performance.

It’s not exorbitantly priced either, with prices starting at only £830 ex VAT. This’ll get most small businesses out of the starting blocks as it includes a decent quad-core 3GHz Xeon E3-1220 v5 CPU and 4GB of 1.2V DDR4 memory.

Memory capacity is significantly less than the R320 which has six DIMM slots and supports up to 192GB of DDR3. However, for the majority of SMBs, we think the maximum 64GB of faster DDR4 in the R330 will still be enough to handle even their most demanding apps.

Both the R320 and R330 can be ordered with four LFF or eight SFF hot-plug drive bays, but the R330 has a trick up its sleeve as you can sneak a couple of 1.8in SATA SSDs into its optical drive bay and use them as fast-booting mirrored OS drives. It’s a little surprising that Dell didn’t opt for M.2 or mSATA space-saving SSDs though, as 1.8in SATA SSDs are an increasingly rare breed.

Storage decisions 

Cold-swap four-bay systems start with the drive backplane cabled to the motherboard’s embedded four-port SATA connector and PERC S130 controller. The dual 1.8in SATA SSD boot option is only available on this chassis though, as you would be expected to use two of the normal SFF bays for this purpose in the eight-drive model.

The S130 supports software-managed mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays for SATA drives only. Our review system was supplied with Dell’s optional PERC H330 controller card which fits in a dedicated slot and brings 12Gbits/sec SAS and hot-swap support.

The H330 has dual, 4-port mini-SAS connectors and can be used in both the 4- and 8-bay versions of the chassis. It adds support for RAID10 and 50 spanned arrays. Plus, it can be viewed and managed directly from Dell’s iDRAC8 remote management console - another useful feature.

If you have a fancy for dual-redundant RAID6 arrays, then you’ll need Dell’s PERC H730 controller. It uses the same dedicated slot as the H330 and also has 1GB of onboard DDR3 cache memory.

Expansion, noise and power 

The R330 slotted easily into our lab’s 1000mm server rack cabinet but, at only 24in deep, it’ll fit neatly into 800mm data cabinets as well. The server comes as standard with Dell’s handy LCD panel which changes colour from blue to orange in the event of an error to provide at-a-glance server status.

Good internal design makes it easy to maintain and upgrade the server. There’s room for two PCI-Express slots, but you’ll need to add the butterfly riser card when ordering as this isn’t included as standard.

Cooling is handled by a bank of three cold-swap fans in front of the CPU and memory sockets. On 4-bay models with the expansion riser card and 8-bay models, an extra fan module needs to be installed in the spare bracket to the left.

We found noise levels to be slightly higher than HP’s ultra-compact ProLiant DL20 Gen9. With our iPad placed one metre in front of the servers, the SPLnFFT iOS app recorded 41dB for the DL20 and 53dB for the R330.

The server comes with a single 350W hot-plug power supply and there’s room next door for a second redundant PSU. Power consumption isn’t a worry as our review system was measured drawing 48W in idle and peaking at only 75W with the CPU under extreme load.

An iDRAC8 Express license provides remote server power control, monitoring and historical graphs

Remote management 

Management tools are in abundance with Dell’s iDRAC8 providing a tidy web interface with a wealth of status information about critical hardware along with power monitoring and access to the PERC H330 RAID controller. The latter shares access with the first Gigabit Ethernet port, but Dell offers a snap-in upgrade card with a dedicated management port. You will need to upgrade form the included iDRAC Express 8 licence to the iDRAC8 Enterprise license if you want full server and OS remote control. 

Dell’s iDRAC8 provides direct access to the server’s PERC RAID controller

Dell’s OpenManage Server Administrator (OMSA) provides local web-based management while the free OpenManage Essentials (OME) delivers centralised management for all SNMP and WMI enabled systems. It runs regular network discoveries and provides a dashboard showing the status of all systems along with extensive alerting and graphical reporting facilities.

Dell’s OpenManage Essentials provides network-wide system monitoring and fault alerting features

Mobile users will like Dell’s OpenManage Mobile (OMM) app as it can link up with the iDRAC8 controller. We tested the iOS version on our iPad and found its hardware health status displays and alert notification really useful.

Even better, the OMM app can talk to the server running OME so we could keep a close eye on all our monitored network systems. The app opens with an overview providing coloured icons for swift status views and we could drill down and check alerts, system logs and hardware details.

Dell’s OMM iOS app links up with OME and provides mobile users with remote network and system monitoring

Conclusions 

The PowerEdge R330 is ideally suited to space-constrained SMBs looking for a powerful first server or to upgrade existing systems to cope with their expanding business apps. The myriad storage options can be confusing but there’s no doubting this compact rack server’s flexibility and it can’t be faulted for features and performance making it good value.

Specifications 

Chassis: 1U rack

CPU: 3GHz Xeon E3-1220 v5

Memory: 32GB 2,133MHz 1.2V DDR4 (max 64GB)

Storage: 2 x 2TB Dell 7.2K NL-SAS SFF hard disks (max 8)

RAID: Dell PERC H330

Array support: Array support: RAID0, 1, 10, 5, 50

Network: 2 x Gigabit Ethernet

Expansion: 2 x PCI-Express 3.0 slots (with optional riser)

Power: 350W hot-plug PSU (max 2)

Management: Dell iDRAC8 Express

Warranty: 1 year basic Next Business Day