Dell EMC have recently launched the first wave of their 14G servers which sees a significant update to their server range. The most obvious change is these servers are based on the new Intel Xeon Scalable Processor platform which replaces the previous generation of Xeon E5 and E7 ranges found on 13G.
Intel Xeon Scalable Processors
Intel are now naming their processors based on metal types with four options being available. The changes around the new architecture is quite deep and probably warrants a dedicated post of its own so I’ll summarise some of the key processor choices below
|Intel Xeon||Cores per Socket (up to)||Sockets per Server (up to)||RAM (up to)|
In addition to the above each step up the range adds features such as Hyper-Threading support, faster clock speeds, an increase in power consumption and more. Unfortunately, much of this still appears to be under NDA at the moment so I’ll look to complete a follow up post shortly. Processors aside it’s time to look at some of the improvements and updates Dell EMC have made with their 14G platform.
QuickSync first launched with 13G and allows management of servers with a compatible smartphone running the OpenManage Mobile app. This allows you to see information around the state of the server, check hardware logs, IP addresses, firmware details, health status and so on. Whilst QuickSync was a successful feature on 13G there were some limitations around device support with NFC, only being an option at point of sale with a supported bezel and only being available on certain server models.
QuickSync 2 addresses some of the limitations with the following improvements.
Bluetooth low energy (BLE) and Wi-Fi is used rather than NFC
Available as an option for all rack and tower servers
Supports both Apple and Android Devices
Can be purchased after point of sale
Does not require a bezel as the module is based inside the server
Has a greater range (works within 5m of the server)
There is also an update to the app, named OpenManage Mobile 2.0 which is now available and allows you to complete basic setup and configuration tasks that typically may have been completed using the front panel or iDRAC.
Following on from the QuickSync update there is a new bezel available with 14G. Now whilst it may look quite cool with the hexagonal based design there is actual a reason for this. Due to the support of devices with higher power consumption additional airflow is required through the chassis.
One other important point to note is that the LCD panel has been moved out of the chassis to the bezel and will be an option to purchase. Unless it is specified the server may ship without a bezel meaning you don’t get the LCD panel. Without the LCD panel configuration of basic settings would be completed using iDRAC, or OpenManage. Another alternative would be to try QuickSync 2.0.
As mentioned above the redesigned bezel allows greater airflow through the chassis, however that’s only part of the story. Dell EMC have a feature to allow airflow to be directed to devices such as PCIe cards that require additional cooling. Within iDRAC each PCIe card slot can have custom LFM (linear feet per minute) airflow settings applied allowing 14G server to support a greater number of specialty cards such as graphics cards.
The biggest change is quite a simple one but will help close big security hole. By default all servers will now ship with a random password set for the iDRAC account rather than the well-known default password (if you don’t know this a quick google search will tell you). For those of you who use automation to deploy servers this could be an issue and possibly break or make the process unmanageable. Fear not there is still the option to have the old default password set on order if required. The second biggest change is the interface is now fully HTML 5, yes the java console has finally gone. If anyone has used the DSM web interface with SC storage the layout is very similar.
Boot Optimised Storage Solution (BOSS)
With 14G servers, there is now the option to use M.2 SATA devices as boot cards (OS support is also required). If running a SDS solution you no longer need to use up valuable drive slots with operating system drives giving even greater internal storage capacity. At launch there are options for 120GB or 240GB cards with support for RAID 1 (mirroring).
14G includes a built in chain of trust to help ensure only properly signed firmware updates are applied to the server. The system lockdown feature can also protect system configuration and firmware against attacks and unauthorised changes. There is now a system erase function to ensure all data can be safely erased from local storage devices (HDD, SDD and NVMe drives)
A new PERC card has been added to the range with an increase amount of write back cache for greater performance. The H740p and H840 cards each have 8GB NV cache and a dual core processor. There is also support for SDS solutions with RAID 1 support for boot images and pass-through more for drives used with SDS.
14G - Wave 1
Dell EMC typically release their server in waves, with the first release consisting of the R640, R740, R740xd, R940 and C6420 models. Updates to other models such as blades, modular server, tower servers are expected later in the year. That said let’s look at the R640 and R740xd server as these are the two most popular models across our customer base.
This is the 1U dense scale out compute offering in the 14G range. The chassis can support several different drive configurations depending on the requirement including an option for 12x 2.5” drives (two of which being rear mounted) which is quite impressive for a 1U server and ideal for a SDS solution. Whilst mentioning SDS there is the option to load the server with up to 8 NVMe PCIe SSD drives, which is new to 14G and 200% more NVMe than the R630.
As with the previous generations this is a two-socket server supporting processors up to 205W with capacity for 24 RDIMMS and up to 12 of these slots can be populated with NVDIMMs. The R6x0 servers have been the bedrock of many VSI deployments over the years and with the many improvements in 14G I can see this trend continuing.
This is the 2U dense storage offering in the 14G range targeted at environments that need large amounts of storage capacity or advanced PCIe options such as GPU cards. This chassis can support up to 32 x 2.5” drives or up to 18 x 3.5” drives using mid and rear bay storage.
As with the R640 this is a two-socket server supporting processors up to 205W with capacity for 24 RDIMMS and up to 12 of these slots can be populated with NVDIMMs. There are seven riser options in the R740xd supporting up to 8 PCIe slots, including the support of up to 3 double width GPU cards which is ideal for a VDI deployment.
Both servers can also support the new 25Gb network daughter card alongside 10Gb and 1Gb options. Whilst many of you may be at or transitioning to 10Gb the industry is moving fast and 25/50/100Gb networking is starting to become more mainstream. More on that another time.
Finally, a quick search on the VMware Compatibility Guide already returns several certified 14G option to use as vSAN ready nodes.
Hopefully you can see 14G is more than just faster processors and more RAM compared to 13G. There are many key improvements not only to the hardware but also to the management, lifecycle and security of the server. The industry is rapidly shifting towards a software defined world and Dell EMC 14G servers are perfectly placed to underpin these solutions and should certainly be considered on your next project. If you would like to know more please do get in touch.