Dell PowerEdge M1000e review

HP and IBM think they have the blade server market sewn up. Dell says otherwise and in this exclusive review we fire up its latest PowerEdge M1000e in the lab and see how it stacks up.

It'll display power consumption in real time and you can access the iDRAC management controller in selected server blades and configure their network addresses. Another useful feature is the LCD module swivels through 180 degrees so it can point downwards - handy for a chassis that's at the top of a rack cabinet.

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Two slots at the rear are for the CMC (chassis management controller) blades. You can run with one installed and the second is available for optional redundancy. The CMC looks after the power supplies and will park any that aren't needed. A fully populated chassis only actually requires a minimum of three supplies and the CMC will always run the minimum number at maximum efficiency.

The CMC communicates with all sixteen server iDRACs and switch blade management ports over a private network. Its web interface opens with a health overview of the chassis showing all populated slots fore and aft. It's not as pretty as HP's Onboard Administrator but we gather Dell will be launching a plush new AJAX-based interface soon.

The current CMC interface is very informative and along with a complete list of all server blades it provides access to the iDRAC module on each one. You can also bypass this and go direct to a remote KVM-over-IP control session.

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From the power management tab you can select multiple servers and power them up and down individually or all together. Usefully, you can also apply iDRAC firmware updates to multiple servers simultaneously.

The CMC provides a full readout on power consumption for the chassis and management extends to a maximum power limit. With this set to a percentage of total power, you can allow the CMC to throttle back servers to stay within limits and prevent new ones from being powered up.

Dell's FlexAddress feature is important for large deployment as this locks MAC addresses and WWNs to server blade slots so if you swap a server out, its replacement retains the same addresses. This is implemented on the CMC with a backup stored in separate memory in the chassis. This arrangement allows FlexAddress to work with any of Dell's switch blades and each chassis is sent out from the factory with a unique predefined address range.

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It's taken a while to get our hands on an M1000e but the wait was worthwhile as Dell's blade server is an impressive beast. It's far better designed and built than Dell's previous offerings, has a high expansion potential and excellent levels of redundancy. It's very easy to deploy and the new M910 server blade gives it a real edge over the other three big names in this market.

Verdict

Dell’s latest blade server is an HP beater on a number of counts. Its management features may not be as sophisticated but the M1000e delivers an equally high server density, excellent build quality and design, good interconnect options and top value.

It’s also the first to deliver a production Xeon 6500 and 7500 server blade to market and well ahead of the competition.

Chassis: M1000e 10U enclosure with sixteen half-height slots

Power: Up to six hot-plug modules

Fans: Nine hot-swap modules as standard

Expansion: Six network interconnect module bays

Management: Two CMC blade slots

Half Height Blades:

M605: 2 x AMD 2300 or 2400 Opteron

M610: 2 x Intel 5500 or 5600 Xeon

Full Height Blades:

M710: 2 x Intel 5500 or 5600 Xeon

M805: 2 x AMD 2300 or 2400 Opteron

M905: 4 x AMD 8300 or 8400 Opteron

M910: 2 x 6500 Xeon or 4 x 7500 Xeon

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