Dell PowerEdge 2800 review

£4499
Price when reviewed

With sales of AMD dual-core Opterons steadily increasing, it’s no surprise that Intel caved in under the pressure – allegedly. The result is the first dual-core Xeon processor much earlier than expected. And since Dell is one of the few remaining Intel-only shops, it’s natural that it should be one of the first to market with the new Xeon.

Dell PowerEdge 2800 review

In this exclusive review, we bring you Dell’s new PowerEdge 2800 pedestal server, which comes equipped with a pair of 2.8GHz dual-core Xeons. This processor wasn’t meant to be, as it didn’t appear on Intel’s original product roadmap. Coined the Paxville Xeon DP, it could be seen as a knee-jerk reaction by Intel, as its plan had been to release the Paxville Xeon MP and Dempsey Xeon DP processors later in 2006. You can see this in Intel’s latest naming conventions. The Xeon MP is being rebranded as the Series 7000, while the Dempsey DP is to be the new Series 5000. At the top of the pile are the dual-core Itanium Montecito and Montvale processors, which will be known as the Series 9000. Intel’s Paxville Xeon DP doesn’t actually have a new moniker and stands out on its own, as it’s the only dual-core processor supported by Intel’s E7520 Lindenhurst chipset – the later models are all likely to utilise the E8501 chipset.

And so to the server itself, which simply exudes build quality. This mighty 5U chassis offers plenty of storage capacity, as the hard disk bay at the front has room for up to eight hot-swap hard disks. The front panel is made of heavy-gauge steel, and above the drive bays is a low-profile CD-ROM/floppy disk drive unit. The hard disk backplane extends ATA and floppy interfaces to this small bay and the unit can be unplugged and removed from the server just by pulling a small release lever. Installation of devices in the 5.25in bays above couldn’t be easier. With the side panel off, another release lever allows the entire front assembly to be pulled forward a couple of inches for easier access to the backplane connectors and bays.

Dell has gone down the modular route for the internals, so the motherboard is mounted vertically, while the expansion slots are presented in a horizontal daughterboard fitted at the base. Standard SCSI services are handled by an LSI Logic dual-channel Ultra320 chipset mounted on the daughterboard. The two interfaces are positioned near to the drive backplane. Dell’s PERC 4E/Di RAID controller comes fully enabled. The server has the hardware activation key installed, a 256MB module of DDR2 cache memory in a separate slot on the daughterboard, and the battery backup pack alongside. Access to the PCI Express slots looks tricky, but pulling a lever underneath the daughterboard allows the entire assembly to be removed sideways and clear of the chassis.

Power consumption and heat output on the new dual-cores is a concern. Dell, however, has both angles covered. The review system came supplied with a whopping great 930W power supply and the chassis has room for a second redundant supply. Cooling is quite remarkable, as the processors are fitted with large passive heatsinks and both have two dedicated 50mm fans, each mounted in individual hot-swap carriers. There are also two larger hot-swap fans for general chassis cooling. The fans must all be removed to get at the processors, but this is a cinch, as the entire assembly with all six fans still in situ can be pulled out. Airflow over the memory sockets is directed by a large plastic shroud, and this has two more fans fitted to vent out air at the rear. We expected the 2800 to be a noisy customer, but we were pleasantly surprised. Once the fans had settled down after power-up, the server was remarkably quiet, making it a good candidate for office duties.

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