The Dell R610 is a 1U server that’s been pretty much designed for virtualisation with the latest Xeon 55xx series CPUs, four onboard NICs, six local drive bays and up to 96GB of RAM. The machines reviewed here had 48GB of 1.3GHz RAM fitted, which provides the best value at the moment due to the prohibitive cost of 8GB DIMMs.
Storage is provided by the Dell Perc 6i array controller, with battery-backed write cache as standard, fitted here with five 2.5” Savvio 10k SAS disks configured as a single 600GB RAID-5 LUN providing local scratch space for ISOs, temporary VMs and the like.
NIC ports are plentiful for virtualisation purposes – 4 onboard interfaces, to which a pair of 2-port iSCSI optimised cards have also been added here for eight ports in all. It’s worth noting that ESX won’t use the iSCSI offload capabilities (yet) however. Quad-port cards could have been used, providing twelve NIC ports.
The R610 has exactly the same internal USB and SSD connectivity as the R710.
One disappointment was the standard fitted “iDRAC Express”. This shares a physical NIC port with a standard Ethernet interface and provides basic remote management capabilities through a browser interface, like health status and the ability to power on (or off) the machine. However, there is no remote console capability, which is reserved for the fully-featured optional iDRAC Enterprise daughter-board, which adds around £200.
Windows Server OEM
The supplied Windows Server 2008 Datacentre Edition allows for unlimited Windows Server VMs to be run on each box. Dell provided the install DVD and the usual OEM sticker – which features a dedicated code number for virtual instances.
Noise & Power Consumption
Power consumption as configured at idle is 193W, regardless of CPU power management setting (static or dynamic). The front panel display will also give power consumption live, although it shows 178W when 193W is measured at the wall, suggesting that it shows the DC power drawn from the power supplies rather than the power drawn from the wall socket.
The efficiency of the 2.5” 10k SAS drives was also clear – exercising them with IOMeter running at 1000 IOPS added only 10W to system power consumption.
A couple of nice details are included that will assist with service at some point in their life, like the inclusion of a pull-out card listing the service tag and service code – and in clear print that’s actually large enough to read. Perhaps HotPoint might like to consider this on their next line of cookers in place of their usual microscopic sticker, at the bottom…, on the back!
The front panel LCD is also the usual Dell bright blue (switching to orange on alarm) providing a range of display options including current power consumption, name, service tag or user-defined string.
ESX installed perfectly as would be expected. Dell unhelpfully failed to enable virtualisation in the BIOS by default however – easily rectified of course. Detailed health status was available including the Perc 6 down to the individual drive status level, all fan RPMs and condition and a wealth of other sensors.
The R610 also appears to support vmDirectPath, although with only two PCI slots that will be likely to be used for NICs, that is likely to go unused in most installations. This could still be a useful feature to keep in hand though, if only for USB pass-through for example.
The on-board Perc 6 array controller seems a good fit for the six-drive chassis and isn’t a bottleneck. Using five 10k SAS drives in RAID-5, some stats from Intel’s IOMeter are, with a 30GB test file,
- Default worker with 16 outstanding IOs (75% read, 0% sequential, 4KB) – 1,000 IOPS, response time ~16ms
- Default worker with 128 outstanding IOs – 1,350 IOPS, but response time increased to >90ms
- 32K sequential block write – 330 MB/s
- 32K sequential block read – 380 MB/s
Benchmarking CPU performance with CPU-Bench 4, a 1vCPU VM produced a performance figure of 10 vs 3.3 for a ‘reference’ Proliant P3 1266MHz. In comparison, the same benchmark on the lab ML115G5 gave a result of 10 vs 5.5 for the Proliant P3, indicating that on this particular benchmark the Xeon 5570 is about 70% faster per core than the Opteron 1352.
The two quad-core CPUs are also hyper-threaded, providing 16 threads available in all, but in reality the impact of hyper-threading is relatively minor, sometimes stated to be worth around 10-15% of overall capacity. The R610 is probably therefore around 4x as powerful as the ML115 G5.
These servers aren’t cheap, but the Windows Datacentre OEM licensing does permit an unlimited number of Windows guests to be run providing a good return on investment. The cost of that licensing option is also compelling.
The R610 is a high quality, well built and well thought out system ideal for VMware ESX or ESXi with its high spec CPUs, large RAM capacity, up to 12 NIC ports and all the usual redundant PSU and cooling fan hardware. Power consumption, at 193W when idle, seems good for a server capable of running so many VMs – a full 42U rack of these should be able to support in the region of 1,000 VMs at under 10W per VM, that is with enough enough cable ties to do something with some 500 network cables.
These machines are definitely worth a look and shouldn’t be dismissed from their Dell online configurator prices – get in touch with Dell and get an account manager if ordering a few of these, as discounts well worth the relative pain of doing so are available, particularly if purchasing with EqualLogic storage.
Also check out this review of the larger Dell R710
About the Author
James Pearce is a regular guest contributor to the TechHead site and has written some interesting and well received posts. He is a Kent based qualified accountant, currently working in information security and technical architecture with most of his time “being spent on virtualisation and business continuity at the moment”.