Dell PowerEdge 2950

Dell delivers a solid all-round rack package with high capacity RAID protected SAS storage, a pile of memory and a comprehensive server management bundle.

Step 1: Dell PowerEdge 2950
Price
£5,999
  • Top build quality and design, a good range of storage choices, plenty of memory included, comprehensive server management features, TOE activated on network adapters.
  • Nothing significant although cooling fans are a little on the noisy side

The PowerEdge 2950 is one of Dell's ninth generation servers launched during 2006 to coincide with Intel's delivery of the 5100 dual Xeon processor. As we've come to expect, build quality is exemplary and the new front panel provides a distinctive LCD display offering a readily visible warning if faults have been detected.

A peek inside shows the processors have large heatsinks fitted, which have been extended sideways to get as much surface area in front of the cooling fans. A large shroud is provided to help direct air flow and it's easy enough to remove for access. For general expansion the server uses a pair of riser cards with the one next to the power supply bay offering a pair of 8X PCI-e slots. A second, smaller riser card on the opposite side provides a 4X PCI-e slot and you can mix and match them with PCI-X versions if you wish.

Dell's optional PERC 5/i RAID controller is mounted at the front where it mates with the SAS interface daughterboard to one side. The embedded controller doesn't provide any RAID functions itself but the upgrade gives you a full 256MB of cache memory, the battery backup pack and support for the usual RAID array suspects although not RAID-6. The standard server comes with a backplane supporting four 3.5in. drives but for an extra ten quid or so you can choose the six drive version or go for low-profile 2.5in. drives with an 8-bay alternative. The review system came with all six 3.5in. bays with four of them occupied by the very latest 300GB Seagate Cheetah T10 SAS drives.

Unlike HP, Dell does not use an embedded management controller but the DRAC 4/P card at the back of the motherboard makes up for this as it provides a dedicated Fast Ethernet port for web browser access allowing the server and power supplies to be remotely controlled. If you don't want the DRAC card all Dell servers do have an embedded IPMI 2.0 chip but the command line shell offers very basic access to power settings only. The bundled OpenManage software suite comes a close second to HP's Server Insight Manager in terms of features as it provides web based access to individual servers allowing to you gather data from the motherboard sensors and set up thresholds for alerting.

Dell's new behavioural design concept will be handy in data centres. A common design and the use of many similar components aims to allow engineers to flit between different models with the greatest of ease - if they know how to service one then they'll be able to spot the same component in the same place on other PowerEdge models.

Verdict

Dell delivers a solid all-round rack package with high capacity RAID protected SAS storage, a pile of memory and a comprehensive server management bundle.

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Motherboard - Dell CPU - 2 x 2.33GHz Xeon 5345 Chipset - Intel 5000X Memory - 8GB 667MHz FB-DIMMs expandable to 32GB Storage controller - Dell SAS 5/i Disk interface - SAS Disk drives - 4 x 300GB Seagate Cheetah T10 SAS RAID controller - DELL PERC 5/i Expansion slots - 2 x PCI-e8X, PCI-e4X Network ports - 2 x Broadcom Gigabit Power - 2 x 750W Management software - Dell OpenManage Suite Other - network adapters TOE activated, DELL PERC 4/P Warranty - Dell Silver

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