With sockets to take four of Intel's new Nehalem EX processors and up to 512GB of RAM, the PowerEdge R810 is an incredibly well built and very scalable server, supporting up to 32-core processing in a 2U rack mount format. Intel Xeon 7500 processors can be specified for maximum performance, while for those on a budget there's 2P support using the Xeon 6500, Dell's FlexMem Bridge technology enabling those buyers to access all of the memory otherwise only available on a 4P setup. Support for a second redundant hypervisor is another key selling point, with all the usual management options we've come to expect on Dell PowerEdge platforms.
Choice of Xeon 6500 or 7500 processors; four processor sockets; 32 DIMM slots for up to 512GB of memory; FlexMem Bridge allowing access to all DIMM slots on 2P server; dual SD cards for redundant hypervisors.
Limited internal storage; VMware hypervisor support only.
2U rack-mount chassis, dual redundant 1100W hot-plug power supplies, two Intel Xeon eight-core X7560 processors (2.26GHz), dual FlexMem Bridge adapters, 128GB memory on 32 x 4GB DDR3 DIMMS, Dell PERC H700 RAID controller, six 146GB 15K SAS hard disks, four Broadcom Gigabit NICs with TCP offload engines, dual internal SD modules, iDRAC 6 Enterprise remote management controller with vFlash, three-year on-site hardware warranty.
The rush of new servers that followed the introduction of Intel's Xeon 5500 (Nehalem) processors has yet to be repeated, following the announcement of the even more scalable Nehalem EX.
Indeed, only a few products have so far made it into the wild, among them the Dell PowerEdge R810 which takes advantage of everything the latest Xeon 6500/7500 silicon has to offer and then adds a few tricks of its own.
To start with, the R810 is a 2U product capable of accommodating four processors in half the rack space of previous four-socket platforms. A variety of processors can also be specified from the Xeon 6500 or 7500 families, both of which include four-, six- and eight-core implementations of the Nehalem EX technology.
That means up to 32 cores in total which, together with RAS (Reliability, Availability and Scalability) enhancements inherent in the EX architecture, puts the PowerEdge into territory previously dominated by high-end RISC systems.
You also get 32 DIMM slots to enable up to half a terabyte of memory, in theory at least, although it's here where things start to get a little tricky.
The memory issues stem from the way each processor socket is hard-wired to four of the DIMM slots, and the fact that the memory controllers needed to access that RAM are built into the processors rather than the motherboard chipset.
If you're prepared to pay for a full set of Xeon 7500 processors, all 32 DIMM slots on the server can be used. If half the processor sockets are empty, however, you can access only half the slots, which could be a real issue with a big database or other memory-hungry application. This is especially true of the budget priced Xeon 6500 processor which can be configured only for two-way deployment.
Dell's answer is its FlexMem Bridge technology, implemented in the form of special adapters to fit into the empty processor sockets. These connect, or bridge, the processors in a two-socket setup to the DIMM slots which would otherwise be inaccessible. A single FlexMem bridge can also be specified on a one-processor server, giving it access to 16 memory modules.
FlexMem uses two controllers per processor and doesn't affect memory speed, enabling 2P server buyers to get the benefit of the huge memory scalability on offer without having to pay a premium for processing power that they may not otherwise need.
Actual savings will, of course, depend on the processors involved, but to get an idea we priced a basic R810 with a pair of four-core E6510 processors and came up with a figure of just over £5,300+VAT. The same system fully populated with a set of four-core E7520 processors (the cheapest of the 7500s) worked out at almost half as much again.