Quad Opteron Style Dell

Offering an interesting platform is one thing. The next challenge is to have an OEM partner that makes the right trade-offs between scalability, expandability, power efficiency and rack space. And that is where the DELL R815 makes a few heads turn: the Dell R815 is a 2U server just like the dual Xeon servers. So you get almost twice the amount of DIMM slots (32) and twice the amount of theoretical performance in the same rack space. Dell also limited the R815 to four 115W Opteron 6100 CPUs (quad 137W TDP Opteron SE is not possible). This trade-off should lower the demands on the fans and the PSU, thus benefiting the power efficiency of this server.

Compared to its most important rival, the HP DL585, it has fewer DIMM slots (32 vs. 48) and PCIe slots. But it is again a balanced trade-off: the HP DL585 is twice as large (4U) and quite a bit pricier. An HP DL585 is 30 to 40% more expensive depending on the specific model. HP positions the quad opteron DL585 right in the middle between the HP DL380 G7 (Dual Xeon 5600) and the HP DL580 (Quad Xeon 7500). The HP DL585 seems to be targeted to the people who need a very scalable and expandable server but are not willing to pay the much higher price that comes with the RAS focused Xeon 7500 platform.

Dell’s R815 is more in line with the “shattering the 4P tax” strategy: it really is a slightly more expensive, more scalable alternative to the Dual Xeon 5600 servers. Admittedly, that analysis is based on the paper specs. But if the performance is right and the power consumption is not too high, the Dell R815 may appeal to a lot of people that have not considered a quad socket machine before.

Most HPC people care little about RAS as a node more or less in a large HPC cluster does not matter. Performance, rack space and power efficiency are the concerns, in that order of importance. The HPC crowd typically goes for 1U or 2U dual socket servers. But in search for the highest performance per dollar, twice the amount of processing power for a 30% higher price must look extremely attractive. So these dual socket buyers might consider the quad socket R815 anyway.


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As a building block for a virtualized datacenter, the R815 makes a good impression on paper too: virtualized servers are mostly RAM limited. So if you do not want to pay the huge premium for 16GB DIMMs or Quad Xeon 7500 servers with their high DIMM slot counts, the R815 must look tempting.

In short, the quad Opteron 6100 Dell R815 could persuade a lot of people on two conditions. The first one is that the two extra CPUs really offer a tangible performance advantage, and that this happens with a minor power increase. So can the Dell R815 offer a superior performance/watt ratio compared to the dual Xeon 5600 competition? Well, that is what this article will try to find out. Let us take a closer look at the benchmarked configurations of the three competitors: the Dell PowerEdge R815, the HP Proliant DL380 G7 (dual Xeon X5670) and the QSCC-4R / SGI Altix UV10.

The Quad Opteron Alternative Dell R815: Benchmarked Config
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  • cgaspar - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    The word you're looking for is "authentication". Is a simple spell check so much to ask? Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Fixed. Reply
  • ESetter - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Great article. I suggest to include some HPC benchmarks other than STREAM. For instance, DGEMM performance would be interesting (using MKL and ACML for Intel and AMD platforms). Reply
  • mattshwink - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    One thing I would like to point out is that most of the customers I work with use VMWare in an enterprise scenario. Failover/HA is usually a large issue. As such we usually create (or at least recommend) VMWare clusters with 2 or 3 nodes. As such each node is limited to roughly 40% usage (memory/CPU) so that if a failure occurs there is minimal/0 service disruption. So we usually don't run highly loaded ESX hosts. So the 40% load numbers are the most interesting. Good article and lots to think about when deploying these systems.... Reply
  • lorribot - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    It would be nice to see some comparisons of blade systems in a similar vein to this article.

    Also you say that one system is better at say DBs whilst the the other is better at VMware, what about if you are running say a SQL database on a VMware platform? Which one would be best for that? How much does the application you are running in the VM affect the comparative performance figures you produce?
    Reply
  • spinning rust - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    is it really a question, anyone who has used both DRAC and ILO knows who wins. everyone at my current company has a tear come to their eyes when we remember ILO. over 4 years of supporting Proliants vs 1 year of Dell, i've had more hw problems with Dell. i've never before seen firmware brick a server, but they did it with a 2850, the answer, new motherboard. yay! Reply
  • pablo906 - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    This article should be renamed servers clash, finding alternatives to the Intel architecture. Yes it's slightly overpriced but it's extremely well put together. Only in the last few months has the 12c Opteron become an option. It's surprising you can build Dell 815's with four 71xx series and 10GB Nics for under a down payment on a house. This was not the case recently. It's a good article but it's clearly aimed to show that you can have great AMD alternatives for a bit more. The most interesting part of the article was how well AMD competed against a much more expensive 7500 series Xeon server. I enjoyed the article it was informative but the showdown style format was simply wrong for the content. Servers aren't commodity computers like desktops. They are aimed at a different type of user and I don't think that showdowns of vastly dissimilar hardware, from different price points and performance points, serve to inform IT Pros of anything they didn't already know. Spend more money for more power and spend it wisely...... Reply
  • echtogammut - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    First off, I am glad that Anandtech is reviewing server systems, however I came away with more questions than answers after reading this article.

    First off, please test comparable systems. Your system specs were all over the board and there were way to many variables that can effect performance for any relevant data to be extracted from your tests.

    Second, HP, SGI and Dell will configure your system to spec... i.e. use 4GB dimms, drives, etcetera if you call them. However something that should be noted is that HP memory must be replaced with HP memory, something that is an important in making a purchase. HP, puts a "thermal sensor" on their dimms, that forces you to buy their overpriced memory (also the reason they will use 1GB dimms, unless you spec otherwise).

    Third, if this is going to be a comparison, between three manufactures offerings, compare those offerings. I came away feeling I should buy an IBM system (which wasn't even "reviewed")

    Lastly read the critiques others have written here, most a very valid.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    "First off, please test comparable systems."

    I can not agree with this. I have noticed too many times that sysadmins make the decision to go for a certain system too early, relying too much on past experiences. The choice for "quad socket rack" or "dual socket blade" should not be made because you are used to deal with these servers or because your partner pushes you in that direction.

    Just imagine that the quad Xeon 7500 would have done very well in the power department. Too many people would never consider them because they are not used to buy higher end systems. So they would populate a rack full of blades and lose the RAS, scalability and performance advantages.

    I am not saying that this gutfeeling is wrong most of the time, but I am advocating to keep an open mind. So the comparison of very different servers that can all do the job is definitely relevant.
    Reply
  • pablo906 - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    These VMWare benchmarks are worthless. I've been digesting this for a long long time and just had a light bulb moment when re-reading the review. You run highly loaded Hypervisors. NOONE does this in the Enterprise space. To make sure I'm not crazy I just called several other IT folks who work in large (read 500+ users minimum most in the thousands) and they all run at <50% load on each server to allow for failure. I personally run my servers at 60% load and prefer running more servers to distribute I/O than running less servers to consolidate heavily. With 3-5 servers I can really fine tune the storage subsystem to remove I/O bottlenecks from both the interface and disk subsystem. I understand that testing server hardware is difficult especially from a Virtualization standpoint, and I can't readily offer up better solutions to what you're trying to accomplish all I can say is that there need to be more hypervisors tested and some thought about workloads would go a long way. Testing a standard business on Windows setup would be informative. This would be an SQL Server, an Exchange Server, a Share Point server, two DC's, and 100 users. I think every server I've ever seen tested here is complete overkill for that workload but that's an extremely common workload. A remote environment such as TS or Citrix is another very common use of virtualization. The OS craps out long before hardware does when running many users concurrently in a remote environment. Spinning up many relatively weak VM's is perfect for this kind of workload. High performance Oracle environments are exactly what's being virtualized in the Server world yet it's one of your premier benchmarks. I've never seen a production high load Oracle environment that wasn't running on some kind of physical cluster with fancy storage. Just my 2 cents. Reply

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