New PowerEdge packs punch

Dell's PowerEdge server line is nearly a decade old, and the newest examples bear little more than a passing resemblance to their ancestors. The Dell PowerEdge 2950 I've been running in my lab presents a sleek, spare, and completely tool-less chassis; it also packs a bigger punch than its predecessors.

This generation overcomes more than a few shortcomings common to the PowerEdge line, at least in the 2U, dual-processor rack-mount products such as the 2950. The new crop is much quieter than earlier models and easier to open and service. As for the internals, the highlights are new CPUs, SAS storage options, and stronger remote management capabilities.

The new PowerEdges leave straight SCSI drives behind, opting for either 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch SAS drives in capacities of as much as 300GB, or SATA disks as large as 500GB. With a choice of four, six, or eight hot-swap bays depending on drive size, this equals 1.8TB to 2.5TB in raw storage per server. Driving all that disk is either a non-RAID SAS controller or the new PERC (PowerEdge Expandable RAID Controller) 5/i SAS RAID controller. A slim-line DVD-ROM and a floppy drive are also included.

On the other side of the I/O channel is the dual Broadcom NetXtreme II Gigabit NICs with TOE (TCP Offload Engine). Right in the middle are eight DIMM sockets, handling as much as 32GB of RAM and providing spare banks to handle a RAM failure. The power supplies are 750 watts each.

The 2950 I was shipped came with 4GB of RAM, four 15,000-rpm 72GB SAS drives with the PERC 5/i, and two dual-core 3.0GHz Intel Xeon EM64T (aka Woodcrest) CPUs. Along with support for a 1,333MHz front-side bus, these CPUs have 4MB of L2 cache on die, and the snappy performance shows it.

Inside the box