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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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  • jdavenport608 - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    Appears that the pros and cons on the last page are not correct for the SGI server. Reply
  • Photubias - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    If you view the article in 'Print Format' than it shows correctly.
    Seems to be an Anandtech issue ... :p
    Reply
  • Ryan Smith - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    Fixed. Thanks for the notice. Reply
  • yyrkoon - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    Hey guys, you've got to do better than this. The only thing that drew me to this article was the Name "SGI" and your explanation of their system is nothing.

    Why not just come out and say . . " Hey, look what I've got pictures of". Thats about all the use I have for the "article". Sorry if you do not like that Johan, but the truth hurts.
    Reply
  • JohanAnandtech - Friday, September 10, 2010 - link

    It is clear that we do not focus on the typical SGI market. But you have noticed that from the other competitors and you know that HPC is not our main expertise, virtualization is. It is not really clear what your complaint is, so I assume that it is the lack of HPC benchmarks. Care to make your complaint a little more constructive? Reply
  • davegraham - Monday, September 13, 2010 - link

    i'll defend Johan here...SGI has basically cornered themselves into the cloud scale market place where their BTO-style of engagement has really allowed them to prosper. If you wanted a competitive story there, the Dell DCS series of servers (C6100, for example) would be a better comparison.

    cheers,

    Dave
    Reply
  • tech6 - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    While the 815 is great value where the host is CPU bound, most VM workloads seem to be memory limited rather than processing power. Another consideration is server (in particularly memory) longevity which is something where the 810 inherits the 910s RAS features while the 815 misses out.

    I am not disagreeing with your conclusion that the 815 is great value but only if your workload is CPU bound and if you are willing to take the risk of not having RAS features in a data center application.
    Reply
  • JFAMD - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    True that there is a RAS difference, but you do have to weigh the budget differences and power differences to determine whether the RAS levels of either the R815 (or even a xeon 5600 system) are not sufficient for your application. Keep in mind that the xeon 7400 series did not have these RAS features, so if you were comfortable with the RAS levels of the 7400 series for these apps, then you have to question whether the new RAS features are a "must have". I am not saying that people shouldn't want more RAS (everyone should), but it is more a question of whether it is worth paying the extra price up front and the extra price every hour at the wall socket.

    For virtualization, the last time I talked to the VM vendors about attach rate, they said that their attach rate to platform matched the market (i.e. ~75% of their software was landing on 2P systems). So in the case of virtualization you can move to the R815 and still enjoy the economics of the 2P world but get the scalability of the 4P products.
    Reply
  • tech6 - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    I don't disagree but the RAS issue also dictates the longevity of the platform. I have been in the hosting business for a while and we see memory errors bring down 2 year+ old HP blades in alarming numbers. If you budget for a 4 year life cycle, then RAS has to be high on your list of features to make that happen. Reply
  • mino - Thursday, September 09, 2010 - link

    Generally I would agree except that 2yr old HP blades (G5) are the worst way to ascertain commodity x86 platform reliability.
    Reasons:
    1) inadequate cooling setup (you better keep c7000 input air well below 20C at all costs)
    2) FBDIMM love to overheat
    3) G5 blade mobos are BIG MESS when it comes to memory compatibility => they clearly underestimated the tolerances needed

    4) All the points above hold true at least compared to HS21* and except 1) also against bl465*

    Speaking about 3yrs of operations of all three boxen in similar conditions. The most clear thi became to us when building power got cutoff and all our BladeSystems got dead within minutes (before running out of UPS by any means) while our 5yrs old BladeCenter (hosting all infrastructure services) remained online even at 35C (where the temp platoed thanks to dead HP's)
    Ironically, thanks to the dead production we did not have to kill infrastructure at all as the UPS's lasted for the 3 hours needed easily ...
    Reply

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