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.

Network choices are extensive and a proprietary slot at the rear accepts Dell's new Broadcom and Intel based NIC daughtercards. We had the standard Intel quad-Gigabit card, but Dell also offers dual 10GBase-T/dual-Gigabit versions, which include FCoE offload on the 10GbE ports.

Dell PowerEdge R720

The review system had the quad Gigabit module but Dell also offers dual 10GbE/Gigabit versions as well.

The 10GbE modules are designed to handle the extra heat generated as they have an onboard copper heatsink. A small radiator matrix extends from the back, but it doesn't impede the PCI-e expansion slot above it.

RAID options start with the embedded PERC S110 controller. This entry-level option links up with the motherboard's four-port SATA II connector, and supports stripes, mirrors and RAID-5 arrays in Windows.

Our review system also came with the new PERC H710P Mini card. This snaps into a dedicated slot, provides 512MB of cache plus integral battery backup pack, and supports up to RAID-6 for 6Gbit/s SAS and SATA drives.

The PowerEdge R720 is also the first Dell server to use its new iDRAC7 remote management controller with a new web interface that provides a lot of operational data and improved power monitoring features.

The base iDRAC7 Express doesn't offer remote control or virtual media services, but upgrading to the Enterprise version has been simplified. With iDRAC6 you needed to buy a new snap-in upgrade module, but the dedicated management port and vFlash slot are already onboard, and just need a license key to be activated.

Dell PowerEdge R720

Dell's new iDRAC7 present a freshly designed interface that's the match of HP's iLO3.

When we reviewed IBM's System x3100 M4, we liked the new BoMC (bootable media creator) service portal, as it makes light work of system and driver updates. Dell answer is RepoMan (Repository Manager), which sounds a lot cooler but essentially does the same thing.

Not only is Dell the first blue chip to bring a Xeon E5-2600 production server to market, but it also lays down a big challenge to the competition. The PowerEdge R720 packs an unbeatable range of features into its 2U chassis and does so at a very competitive price.

Verdict

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.

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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