Dell PowerEdge 2970 review

Price when reviewed

When Dell introduced its first AMD Opteron products at the end of 2006, it was very much a tale of two servers. On the one hand, you had the distinctly unimpressive PowerEdge SC1435 (web ID: 102309), and on the other, you had the PC Pro Recommended PowerEdge 6950 (web ID: 104989), which looks capable of giving HP’s ProLiant DL585 G2 (web ID: 113220) a run for its money. However, if Dell is to stand any chance of competing with HP across the board, it needs a broader range of AMD servers. In this exclusive review, we bring you the first look at the new PowerEdge 2970, which aims to plug this gap and provide Dell with an answer to HP’s mid-range ProLiant DL385 (web ID: 75073).

Dell PowerEdge 2970 review

The 2970 is presented in a 2U rack chassis and its storage capabilities have the measure of HP as it, too, can support up to eight low-profile 2.5in SAS hot-plug hard disks. As with HP, Dell is phasing out support for 3.5in hard disks specifically because of power issues. As capacities for 2.5in hard disks increase, they become a far more cost-effective choice, as they can consume up to 50% less power than a 3.5in drive. This also has a knock-on effect in data centres, as it reduces cooling requirements as well.

In fact, Dell is pushing the green issue hard, as you can opt for the Energy Smart version of this server. The review model does have the 2GHz Opteron HE (high efficiency) processor installed, but you can also choose from memory configurations restricted to 1GB and 2GB modules to reduce power consumption. You can even select supposedly energy- efficient power supplies, although we couldn’t see any differences between these and the standard supplies that cost precisely the same. Some BIOS tweaks are included, too, although Dell was unable to enlighten us here, and the energy-efficient models don’t include Dell’s remote management card. You’re not paying much of a premium, as we configured an Energy Smart server with the same specification as the review system and it came to just £70 more.

Along with the hard disk bays, there’s still room at the front for DVD and floppy drives, and the panel also sports Dell’s distinctive LCD panel. This is handy, as it allows you to see at a glance how the server is faring. There’s even room for a large grille to the right, which helps facilitate airflow through the chassis. The 2970 presents a tidy interior that affords easy access to each component. Storage fault tolerance looks good, as the price includes Dell’s PERC 5i RAID controller along with 256MB of cache memory and the battery backup pack. The RAID card sits above the drive bay and both channels are wired through to its backplane with the battery backup pack located alongside.

The wiring arrangement for the DVD and floppy drives is untidy due to the fact that the server has a daughtercard on the opposite side of the chassis, and the IDE interface cable stretches right across the main cooling shroud and needs to be removed for the processors to be accessed. General cooling is handled efficiently by a bank of four fans situated behind the processors. They do take a while to settle down after power-up but, once idling, overall noise levels are as low as the ProLiant DL385.

Expansion options are adequate, as the horizontal riser card offers a pair of PCI-E 8x slots, while a second riser card on the opposite side provides a PCI-E 4x slot. You get a pair of embedded Broadcom Gigabit adapters, which support fault-tolerant or load-balanced teams. As with HP’s servers, these also include the optional TOE (TCP offload engine), which is supported under Windows Server 2003 with the bundled Microsoft Scalable Networking Pack.

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