Part of a second wave of its recently launched 12th-generation PowerEdge servers, Dell is using Intel's latest Xeon E5-2400 processors to beef up platforms aimed at the larger or growing small business. First to appear is the PowerEdge T320, a single-processor server in the same mould as the earlier T310, but with a lot more power courtesy of the new silicon supported by a lot more memory and a massive hike in storage.
The T320 can even be fitted with a GPU accelerator, an embedded hypervisor and Dell's impressive remote management options, making for an extremely capable SME solution.
The PowerEdge T320 is a single-processor tower server equipped with Intel's latest Xeon E5-2400 processors
A tower for all reasons
The 'T' in the name tells you that the T320 is a tower server, designed to stand on the floor but with optional fittings for rack mounting if needed. Build quality is impressive, with a solid all-metal casing equipped, in our case, with dual hot-swap redundant power supplies that are considerably smaller than those used on the previous model.
Apart from the PSU fans, there's just one other large fan at the back, keeping things cool and at the same time making the T310 impressively quiet in operation. Although Dell claims 'library quiet', it's quite audible — particularly when powering up. The new tower also benefits from Dell's Fresh Air technology, which means you don't need air conditioning to keep it cool.
Positioning the processor
Access is via a large hinged and removable side panel with an equally large lift-off baffle underneath to direct the airflow. The motherboard underneath is all new and features circuitry for two processors and two banks of memory, leading us to think it will also be used on the dual-socket T420. On this model, however, only one socket is actually fitted — an LGA 1356 — capable of taking processors from the new Xeon E5-2400 family, or a Pentium 1400 series for those with more modest requirements.
The Xeon E5-2440 operates within a 95W thermal envelope
Billed as a 'value' range, members of the E5-2400 family are limited to a single QPI link and reductions in memory and I/O capabilities compared to the E5-2600. But none of that is really an issue on this type of server, and you can still get up to 8-core implementations.
Our server came with a Xeon E5-2440, a 2.4GHz processor with 15MB of L3 cache supporting 6-cores plus HyperThreading. This enables it to deliver a huge increase in performance compared to the quad-core Xeon 3400 that topped the T310 options. Based on our benchmark tests it also places the T320 above servers based on Xeon E3 chips.
It's also possible to plug in a GPU accelerator — a pretty unique option on this class of server. However, this is something of a specialist requirement that we can't see being widely adopted just yet.
Another benefit over the E5-2600 are generally lower levels of power consumption and heat generation, the E5-2440 benefitting from a modest 95W TDP (Thermal Design Power). As such, our server was able to idle along at around 112W much of the time and stay comfortably below 176W when pushed hard in our tests.
Memory also gets a boost, with six DIMM slots alongside the processor socket to take up to 96GB of RAM — three times what the T310 could handle. As you might expect, ECC protection comes as standard and the RAM can be clocked at up to 1,600MHz on this model. However, some care is needed when choosing how much to buy as, just on other servers, extra RAM can dramatically boost the price.
Our review system came with a relatively modest 24GB of 1,333MHz RAM, allowing it cope with a range of SME applications without breaking the bank.
Storage, storage, storage
The T320 chassis is quite a bit bigger than the old T310, which is hardly surprising since it can accommodate a lot more in terms of internal storage. Whereas the T310 was limited to just four 3.5in. or 2.5in disks, its successor comes in three configurations to take either four cabled or eight hot-swap 3.5in. drives, or up to sixteen hot-swap 2.5in. disks.
Our review unit had sixteen 2.5in. bays located underneath a removable front bezel, of which eight were occupied by 300MB SAS disks spinning at 10,000rpm.
To manage this storage Dell supplied a PERC H710 RAID controller, fitted into one of three PCIe 3.0 expansion slots, with two Gen 2 slots available alongside. Based on an LSI design, this 8-port 6GB/s card can manage up to 32 SATA/SAS or SSD drives, providing RAID Level 0,1,5 or 6 protection via a dedicated dual-core processor with 512MB of dedicated battery-backed cache also built in.
Other storage options are available, including budget software-based RAID for Windows using the built-in SATA controller. A PERC H810 can also be ordered to connect to external storage arrays and, with four more PCIe expansion slots free next to the PERC adapter, there's more than enough scope to add a fibre-channel HBA or extra network cards to connect to an iSCSI SAN.
All the options
Networking is handled via a pair of Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit Ethernet ports. The review system had an optional iDRAC remote management adapter fitted, this option adding a third port solely for management needs.
Dell's iDRAC remote management adapter and LifeCycle Controller allow BIOS settings to be configured remotely
Now in its seventh incarnation, the iDRAC adapter, together with Dell's unique Lifecycle Controller, takes a lot of the hassle out of managing servers and shouldn't be viewed purely as a large enterprise luxury. For example, using the remote console included with the Enterprise licence upgrade applied on the review system, we could configure just about everything on the server remotely. That included setting the BIOS options we wanted — achieved using the graphical setup interface included as part of the 12th generation refresh — to updating drivers and managing Windows from the comfort of our desk.
Managing the embedded VMware hypervisor using the iDRAC 7 console
We could also manage the embedded VMware hypervisor that Dell supplied using the iDRAC console. Commonplace on more expensive enterprise servers, this is the first time this option to boot straight into a hypervisor has been offered on an SME-focused server. Admittedly you can do much the same with a USB memory stick, but this is a much more reliable option as Dell employs the same dual redundant SD card solution here as on its high-end servers.
Dual redundant internal SD card slots (for the VMware hypervisor) are a high-end feature on this SME server
Billed as a 1P server with enterprise reliability, the PowerEdge T320 is a big improvement on the T310 it replaces. Storage and management capabilities are also enhanced, and despite its single CPU socket the T320 is a very flexible and expandable solution and one the competition will find hard to match.