Dell PowerEdge 830 review
Although many server manufacturers now include support for AMD in their product lines, Dell has remained Intel’s staunchest supporter and shows no signs of wavering from total commitment. And this has resulted in a fine range of Intel-based servers covering every angle from the SME right up to the enterprise. Aimed at small businesses and applications such as remote office or workgroup services, the PowerEdge 830 is the latest to join this extended family and delivers support for Intel’s dual-core Pentium D processor.
There are certainly plenty of entry-level servers to choose from, but the big differentiators at this level are always remote and local management facilities. The 830 is particularly good value in this respect. Along with a decent specification, this model has a wealth of remote management and monitoring features. These centre around the bundled OpenManage software suite, comprising Dell’s Server Administrator, IT Assistant and Array Manager utilities. Installation is simple enough, as Dell supplies one CD-ROM to automatically set up a server to be managed and another to turn a networked system into a management console.
The server can be locally managed using the Server Administrator, which offers browser-based access to the server and provides plenty of information about motherboard sensors. All operational data is presented in tabular format and you can see the status of the processor, power, hard disks, chassis intrusion, temperatures and voltages. Alert management is particularly good, as any faults can be linked to actions such as network broadcasts, sending emails and running an application. The IT Assistant targets Dell-centric networks and can manage any of its servers, workstations and laptops running the appropriate agent software. It requires MSDE 2000, which is included on the product CD-ROM, and uses this to store basic inventory information about each system. Basic remote access is facilitated by the IPMI 1.5-compliant BMC (baseboard management controller) chip, which allows the server to be remotely accessed over the LAN or serial port regardless of its condition. However, unlike vendors such as Supermicro that provide a decent graphical interface for their IPMI controllers, all Dell offers is a simple command-line shell. It’s limited in its capabilities, but it does allow you to control the server’s power supply and flash the status LED on its front panel.
The review system as priced includes Dell’s DRAC 4/P management card, which comes with its own processor, graphics chipset and network port. The server is accessed remotely via a secure browser session and security is provided via a user list that determines what can be accessed on the server. With full administrative access, you can shut down the OS, recycle power and turn off or switch the server back on. Full remote-control sessions allow the server and OS to be accessed, and virtual floppy and CD-ROM support means it can be booted from an image stored on another system. Note that HP, in contrast, offers only the latter features as optional extras with its integrated lights-out (iLO) controller.
Dell’s build quality certainly isn’t anything to sniff at. The 830 will easily handle the rigours of everyday office life. The chassis is made of solid steel and physical security extends to key-locking the front bezel, which also protects the side panel. Internal layout isn’t the tidiest, as the IDE and power cables are left loose, although we found access to all key components wasn’t hindered.