Dell's M-Series is a scalable blade server that can now match HP and IBM in terms of the number and types of blades it can accommodate. The revamped management interface is very easy to use, and the M-Series is up at the head of the pack when it comes to energy efficiency and cooling.
Single chassis for up to 16 half-height or eight full-height blades; supports Ethernet, Fibre Channel and Infiniband connectivity; lots of redundancy
Careful planning of I/O modules needed before deployment
£ 40,491 as reviewed, semi-populated with blades (see specifications)
10U M1000e blade server chassis with three power supplies, single CMC, iKVM option and dual 1Gbit/s Ethernet pass-through I/O modules, 6 x M610 blades (dual Intel Xeon E5506 four-core processors, 2GB memory, 160GB SATA hard disk ), 2 x M910 blades (Dual Intel E6510 four-core processors, 4GB memory, 146GB SAS hard disk), 8 x Emulex 8Gbit/s Fibre Channel mezzanine cards; 2 x Dell 8/4Gbit/s SAN modules
After a couple of false starts, Dell appears finally to have a blade server platform to rival those from HP and IBM. Moreover, in the past few months, Dell has extended its M-Series Blade Server family, adding yet more server options plus flexible new I/O modules developed in conjunction with Cisco and Brocade.
Dell has also updated its management interface, and with the offer of exclusive access to Dell's proof-of-concept lab in Ireland, we thought it time to investigate exactly what the M-Series is all about.
The first thing we learned was that the 'M' in M-Series stands for modular, with a single 10U chassis - the PowerEdge M1000e - at the heart of the product.
Capable of accommodating all of the current M-Series blades and future additions for at least the next few years, it's a compact and very smart piece of kit. Built to the usual Dell high standards it has room for eight full-height blades, or 16 half-height servers for customers wanting maximum processor density.
The blades plug into the chassis from the front into a passive single-board mid-plane. With no electronics to go wrong, this makes for a very robust and reliable arrangement. Moreover, the Dell engineers were at pains to point out the use of female connectors on the mid-plane and male on the blades so that, if a pin gets damaged, it affects only that single blade rather than the entire mid-plane.
The mid-plane, in turn, connects the blades to power, a plug-in management controller and a variety of I/O modules, about which more shortly.
The blades come in a range of specifications to suit every application from simple web server farms, through scalable virtualisation to high-end application and cloud hosting. Intel-and AMD-based blades are both available, and the PowerEdge M610 (from £1,837 ex VAT) is a popular choice across a wide range of applications and a typical starting point for many deployments.
A half-height blade, the M610 sports dual CPU sockets to take quad-core or six-core Xeon processors, which means up to 12 cores per server backed by up to 192GB of DDR3 memory on a very compact, hot-pluggable board. There's even room for a couple of 2.5in hot-swap drives, with a choice of SATA/SAS or SSD devices plus an optional RAID controller.
Our test system was populated with six M610 blades alongside two full-height M910 blade servers, the latter of which are available from £5,021 (ex VAT).