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.


Click to enlarge

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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  • pablo906 - Saturday, September 11, 2010 - link

    High performance Oracle environments are exactly what's being virtualized in the Server world yet it's one of your premier benchmarks.

    /edit should read

    High performance Oracle environments are exactly what's not being virtualized in the Server world yet it's one of your premier benchmarks.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    "You run highly loaded Hypervisors. NOONE does this in the Enterprise space."

    I agree. Isn't that what I am saying on page 12:

    "In the real world you do not run your virtualized servers at their maximum just to measure the potential performance. Neither do they run idle."

    The only reason why we run with highly loaded hypervisors is to measure the peak throughput of the platform. Like VMmark. We know that is not realworld, and does not give you a complete picture. That is exactly the reason why there is a page 12 and 13 in this article. Did you miss those?
    Reply
  • Per Hansson - Sunday, September 12, 2010 - link

    Hi, please use a better camera for pictures of servers that costs thousands of dollars
    In full size the pictures look terrible, way too much grain
    The camera you use is a prime example of how far marketing have managed to take these things
    10MP on a sensor that is 1/2.3 " (6.16 x 4.62 mm, 0.28 cm²)
    A used DSLR with a decent 50mm prime lens plus a tripod really does not cost that much for a site like this

    I love server pron pictures :D
    Reply
  • dodge776 - Friday, September 17, 2010 - link

    I may be one of the many "silent" readers of your reviews Johan, but putting aside all the nasty or not-so-bright comments, I would like to commend you and the AT team for putting up such excellent reviews, and also for using industry-standard benchmarks like SAPS to measure throughput of the x86 servers.

    Great work and looking forward to more of these types of reviews!
    Reply
  • lonnys - Monday, September 20, 2010 - link

    Johan -
    You note for the R815:
    Make sure you populate at least 32 DIMMs, as bandwidth takes a dive at lower DIMM counts.
    Could you elaborate on this? We have a R815 with 16x2GB and not seeing the expected performance for our very CPU intensive app perhaps adding another 16x2GB might help
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Tuesday, September 21, 2010 - link

    This comment you quoted was written in the summary of the quad Xeon box.

    16 DIMMs is enough for the R815 on the condition that you have one DIMM in each channel. Maybe you are placing the DIMMs wrongly? (Two DIMMs in one channel, zero DIMM in the other?)
    Reply
  • anon1234 - Sunday, October 24, 2010 - link

    I've been looking around for some results comparing maxed-out servers but I am not finding any.

    The Xeon 5600 platform clocks the memory down to 800MHz whenever 3 dimms per channel are used, and I believe in some/all cases the full 1066/1333MHz speed (depends on model) is only available when 1 dimm per channel is used. This could be huge compared with an AMD 6100 solution at 1333MHz all the time, or a Xeon 7560 system at 1066 all the time (although some vendors clock down to 978MHz with some systems - IBM HX5 for example). I don't know if this makes a real-world difference on typical virtualization workloads, but it's hard to say because the reviewers rarely try it.

    It does make me wonder about your 15-dimm 5600 system, 3 dimms per channel @800MHz on one processor with 2 DPC @ full speed on the other. Would it have done even better with a balanced memory config?

    I realize you're trying to compare like to like, but if you're going to present price/performance and power/performance ratios you might want to consider how these numbers are affected if I have to use slower 16GB dimms to get the memory density I want, or if I have to buy 2x as many VMware licenses or Windows Datacenter processor licenses because I've purchased 2x as many 5600-series machines.
    Reply
  • nightowl - Tuesday, March 29, 2011 - link

    The previous post is correct in that the Xeon 5600 memory configuration is flawed. You are running the processor in a degraded state 1 due to the unbalanced memory configuration as well as the differing memory speeds.

    The Xeon 5600 processors can run at 1333MHz (with the correct DIMMs) with up to 4 ranks per channel. Going above this results in the memory speed clocking down to 800MHz which does result in a performance drop to the applications being run.
    Reply
  • markabs - Friday, June 08, 2012 - link

    Hi there,

    I know this is an old post but I'm looking at putting 4 SSDs in a Dell poweredge and had a question for you.

    What raid card did you use with the above setup?

    Currently a new Dell poweredge R510 comes with a PERC H700 raid card with 1GB cache and this is connect to a hot swap chassis. Dell want £1500 per SSD (crazy!) so I'm looking to buy 4 intel 520s and setup them up in raid 10.

    I just wanted to know what raid card you used and if you had a trouble with it and what raid setup you used?

    many thanks.

    Mark
    Reply
  • ian182 - Thursday, June 28, 2012 - link

    I recently bought a G7 from www.itinstock.com and if I am honest it is perfect for my needs, i don't see the point in the higher end ones when it just works out a lot cheaper to buy the parts you need and add them to the G7. Reply

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