Dell PowerEdge R630 Review

Dell has come up with its most advanced version of PowerEdge storage servers and the reviews so far have been nothing but promising. There is a telling need in today’s storage driven world for servers that can live up to the rising expectations and at the same time offer unparalleled performance. With its PowerEdge R630, Dell has delivered a master stroke that could have far reaching implications in a niche, yet highly competitive market. The R630 is the perfect tool for companies aiming to tackle the multiple challenges posed on a daily basis by cloud storage, mobility, huge data etc. Dell has gone in for a much compact design from its previous version, but this shouldn’t fool you as far as the performance of the Dell PowerEdge R630 is concerned. We have subjected it to intense test at varying parameters, loads and scenarios and surprisingly, it has come out all guns blazing on every single one of them. Below, we have taken up the different aspects of the Dell PowerEdge R630 and put it under the lens to understand what Dell wanted to deliver and more importantly, how it is going to be a unique game changer for companies worldwide.

The Dell PowerEdge R630 has been around for a while now, but the renewed interest in the 1U server platform is what makes you want to sit up take note of the new version. The R630 makes for a splendid node in software-defined deployments ranging from vSAN to ScaleIO. While smaller in rack footprint, don’t let the R630 fool you; it’s a full-fledged dual-socket PowerEdge supporting the latest Intel Broadwell CPUs, up to 1.5TB RAM and configurations with up to 24 1.8″ SSDs. Our configuration is a bit more conventional with a twist, ten 2.5″ bays; six supporting SATA/SAS drives as well as four NVMe bays supporting the latest in cutting-edge storage.
It is only natural that you want to the compare the R630 with the conventional 2U R730 and the one thing that strikes you immediately is the fewer front-mount drive bays as well as less internal expansion slots. The R630 has 2 or 3 mount drive bays depending on configuration, whereas the R730 supports up to 7. For many scenarios the denser R630 will be a great choice, where those that require additional edge cards for storage, networking or VDI GPUs will opt for the R730. As noted though, in software-defined environments where the nodes goes with a fixed configuration and don’t really change over time, the R630 provides a density and power combination that fits a wide array of use cases.

When you look at it from a storage angle, one thing that sets apart the R630 from the other is the ability to configure the server with NVMe SSDs. When choosing this backplane, “Chassis with up to 6, 2.5″ Hard Drives, 4 PCIe SSDs, 3 PCIe Slots,” Dell opens up the ability to add up to four NVMe drives. With current high-performance NVMe SSDs trying for 3.2TB and beyond, the R630 opens up a wide range of possibilities in the 1U platform.
For the purpose of testing, the R630 was configured with Dual Intel E5-2699 v4 Broadwell processors and 24 x 32GB DDR4. Storage metrics were achieved using a set of 4 Intel 2TB P3700 NVMe SSDs.

Dell PowerEdge R630 Specifications
• Processor: Intel Xeon processor E5 2600 v4 product family
• Operating System Options:
o Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2
o Microsoft Windows Server 2012
o Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2
o Microsoft Windows Server 2016
o Novell SUSE Linux Enterprise Server
o Red Hat Enterprise Linux
o VMware ESX
• Chipset: Intel C610 series chipset
• Memory: Up to 1.5TB (24 DIMM slots): 4GB/8GB/16GB/32GB/64GB DDR4 up to 2400MT/s
• Embedded Hypervisor (Optional)
o Microsoft Windows Server 2012, with Hyper-V
o VMware vSphere ESXi
o Citrix XenServer
• Storage:
o HDD: SAS, SATA, nearline SAS
o SSD: SAS, SATA, NVMe PCIe
o Up to 24 x 1.8” SATA SSD
o Up to 10 x 2.5” HDD: SAS, SATA, nearline SAS SSD: SAS, SATA, Up to 4 NVMe PCIe
o Up to 8 x 2.5” HDD: SAS, SATA, nearline SAS SSD: SAS, SATA
• Slots
o 2 CPUs, 3 slots
 Slot 1: Half length, half height – PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 connector)
 Slot 2: Half length, half height – PCIe 3.0 x8 (x16 connector)
 Slot 3: Half length, half height – PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 connector)
o 2CPUs, 2 slots
 Slot 1: Half length, half height – PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 connector)
 Slot 2: 3/4 length, full height – PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 connector)
o 1CPU, 2 slots
 Slot 1: Half length, half height – PCIe 3.0 x8 (x16 connector)
 Slot 2: 3/4 length, full height – PCIe 3.0 x16 (x16 connector
• Power
o 1100W AC, 86 mm (Platinum)
o 1100W DC, 86 mm
o 750W AC, 86 mm (Platinum)
o 750W AC, 86 mm (Titanium)
o 495W AC, 86 mm (Platinum)

Design and Build

The Dell PowerEdge R630 is designed in a very compact way so as to offer support for systems with varying configurations. This consists of an 8 drive system with up to eight 2.5-inch bays; 10 drive systems with up to ten 2.5 inch bays (our configuration); and a 24 drive system with up to twenty-four 1.8 SATA SSDs. The R630 focuses on ease of use when it comes to configuration and includes all of the features one requires in an enterprise-grade server such as redundant power supply units, hot-plug and swappable PSUs, cooling fans and a dual SD card option for failsafe hypervisors.

The functionality of the R630 has been built into the left side of the front panel by way of a 10-drive configuration. Located here are the diagnostic indicators, which light up to show error status; the system health indicator, which blinks amber when it detects a system fault; the mini USB connector/iDRAC Direct, which allows you to connect USB devices to the R630 or provides access to the iDRAC Direct features; and the power-on indicator and button. The NMI button (can be pressed using the end of a paper clip) is used to troubleshoot software and non-recoverable errors that require immediate attention. Located in the centre of the functionality area of the front panel is the System identification button (which is located on the back panel as well). This button comes handy when you need to locate a specific system within a rack.

One common feature with all rack servers is that most of them have their front panel occupied by drive bays. In our 10 drive setup, this translates to either up to ten 2.5 inch hot-swappable drives, though users are given option to use six 2.5 hot-swappable drives or up to four NVMe devices.

PowerEdge R630’s back panel is equipped with features that allow users good connectivity and expansion options. Towards the left are the second system identification button and connector, iDRAC8 Enterprise port, and serial, video, and USB 3.0 (two) connectors. Above these ports are the PCIe expansion card slots (one low profile and one full height 3/4 length), which allow users to install various PCIe cards can also be installed on the rear panel, including additional NICs and adapters.

Towards the middle panel of the PowerEdge R630, there are four Ethernet connectors which means that the redundant power supplies are placed further right. For former, configurations consists of Four integrated 10/100/1000 Mbps NIC connectors or two integrated 10/100/1000 Mbps NIC connectors and two integrated 100 Mbps/1 Gbps/10 Gbps SFP+ connectors. For the latter, users have the option of selecting between 495W, 750W, or 1100W power supplies, depending on their power needs.

If you need to open up the server, first you need to release the latch lock and unlock the cover followed by lifting the cover to release latch to remove it. Inside you will see the redundant power supplies at the back left, which is placed right next to the riser and network daughter cards. Front and center are the two Intel E5-2699 v4 processors surrounded by 24 x 32GB DDR4 memory sticks. Moreover, the server is aided by seven different fans at the front of the server, which is needed in order to ensure this system is operating cool and efficiently under demanding workloads.

From the pain Dell engineers have gone through for incorporating cutting endge functionalities and high end configuration, one thing is certain and that is they want the PowerEdge R630 rack server to be a flagship product that will be directly competing with the other industry giants. Be it storage, design, build, management, ease of use, price, it is obvious that there is something for everyone in there. The functionality has been optimized in such a way so as to allow round-the-clock availability and fewer downtimes. Dell has also overhauled the basic design to accommodate more features which is being well received by clients. For instance, the rearrangement of panel items to incorporate newer ones and remove the redundant ones shows a research team that has been acting on the feedbacks received from their clients. That is the kind of the response that will eventually draw more clients in the long run. Another aspect Dell has laid emphasis on the Dell PowerEdge R630 is that of expansion. The requirements of clients keep evolving and they may not be in a position to upgrade their server every time. by providing them expansion slots, Dell has addressed this issue to a great extent.

Management
Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller 8 (iDRAC8) with Lifecycle Controller has received a much needed shot in the arm with The Dell PowerEdge R630, which improves its versatility and makes it more efficient in its operations. Like the other PowerEdge platforms, it also supports Dell OpenManage Server Administrator (OMSA) software and OpenManage Essentials (OME) systems management console. OSMA is primarily employed for agent-based management deployments, offering one-to-one system management from the command line or a Web GUI while iDRAC provides remote access to the system whether or not there is an operating system installed.

In the testing and developing phase, iDRAC has been the preferred remote management platforms for obvious reasons. Other than physically swapping out hardware, iDRAC allows us to completely manage every aspect of a server from configuring and deploying software, to pulling in its own firmware updates through the Lifecycle Controller. The latter is one that many competitors still require users to download updates themselves, attach to the iKVM as an ISO (or upload software to the device web GUI) and load in a semi-automated fashion. Dell goes a step further, and with an active Internet connection a PowerEdge platform can find its own updates, pull them down from a Dell FTP site and complete the install process itself unattended. This makes the process of maintaining servers over their lifetime super easy. As a lab that frequently updates system for device compatibility for testing purposes, streamlining this process minimizes stress considerably.

Sysbench Performance

It is worth noting here that Each Sysbench VM is configured in such a way that there are three vDisks, one for boot (~92GB), one with the pre-built database (~447GB) and the third for the database under test (270GB). From a system resource angle, we configured each VM with 16 vCPUs, 60GB of DRAM and leveraged the LSI Logic SAS SCSI controller.
Sysbench Testing Configuration (per VM)
• CentOS 6.3 64-bit
• Storage Footprint: 1TB, 800GB used
• Percona XtraDB 5.5.30-rel30.1
• Database Tables: 100
• Database Size: 10,000,000
• Database Threads: 32
• RAM Buffer: 24GB
• Test Length: 3 hours
• 2 hours preconditioning 32 threads
• 1 hour 32 threads

The results of the Sysbench test has been quite promising with average figures in TPS (Transactions Per Second), latency, and most importantly, the average 99th percentile latency at a peak load of 32 threads. Considering the average TPS initially, the PowerEdge R630 reached 10,682.91 TPS with four virtual machines. When increasing the configuration to eight virtual machines, it was able to reach 14,527.8 TPS (a 31% increase). Moving to the average latency of the Sysbench benchmark, the R630 showed 11.9925 with 4 VMs while reaching 17.6925ms when configured with 8 VMs, which is an increase of roughly 38%. As such, we expect higher latency as we add more virtual machines.
In terms of our worst-case MySQL latency scenario (99th percentile latency), the R630’s latency increased by 34% when moving from 4 VMs to 8 VMs, or, more specifically, 22.958ms to 32.525ms.

SQL Server Performance

The SQL Server Performance was tested in a Microsoft SQL Server OLTP testing protocol which uses the latest directives from the Transaction Processing Performance Council’s Benchmark C (TPC-C), which effectively is an online transaction processing benchmark that reproduces the various parameters found in complex application environments. The TPC-C benchmark comes closer than synthetic performance benchmarks to measuring the performance strengths and bottlenecks of storage infrastructure in database environments.
It is observed that each of the SQL Server VM has two vDisks: 100GB volume for boot and a 500GB volume for the database and log files. From a system resource angle, we configured each VM with 16 vCPUs, 64GB of DRAM and leveraged the LSI Logic SAS SCSI controller. While our Sysbench workloads tested previously saturated the platform in both storage I/O and capacity, the SQL test is searching for latency performance.
To comply with Dell’s Benchmark Factory for Databases, our test used SQL Server 2014 running on Windows Server 2012 R2 guest VMs. While our conventional usage of this benchmark has been to test large 3,000-scale databases on local or shared storage, in this iteration we focus on spreading out four 1,500-scale databases evenly across our servers.

SQL Server Testing Configuration (per VM)
• Windows Server 2012 R2
• Storage Footprint: 600GB allocated, 500GB used
• SQL Server 2014
• Database Size: 1,500 scale
• Virtual Client Load: 15,000
• RAM Buffer: 48GB
• Test Length: 3 hours
• 2.5 hours preconditioning
• 30 minutes sample period

The SQL Server test gave promising results with the R630 being able to handle 15,000 virtual users comfortably, measuring 12,551.7 TPS in aggregate. Virtual machine configurations varied from 3,136.0 TPS to 3,139.9 TPS. When looking at average latency using the same virtual user workload, the R630’s aggregate latency was 36.25ms, which varied from 33ms (VM2) to 39ms (VM4).

Conclusion

Versatility and functionality has always been the hallmark of Dell’s server platforms and the Dell PowerEdge is not any different in this aspect. The PowerEdge R630 specifically, is ideal for a wide range of scenarios in software-defined environments where the nodes fit a fixed configuration and generally remain static over the long haul. Users have the option of customizing the R630 with the latest Intel E5-2600 v4 CPUs, up to 1.5TB RAM and configurations with up to 24 1.8″ SSDs (though our build was comprised of a 10-drive configuration). All of this is smartly packed into a small 1U form factor. Size is of little consequence with the R630, as this server showed some impressive performance during our Sysbench and SQL Server tests despite its small physical footprint.
The R630 offers a lot of options when it comes to configuration and customization, specifically around NVMe SSDs. This allows for a generous amount of high performance storage using 4 drive bays (up to 12.8TB based on 3.2TB models) combined with six bays of more traditional storage options. For our tests, we used the R630 with dual Intel E5-2699 v4 processors, 24 x 32GB DDR4, a single PM1725 3.2TB NVMe, and four Intel NVMe drives we have in the lab. As far as performance is concerned, the R630 was able to pack a wallop in its small 1U form factor. In Sysbench, we saw aggregate TPS performance of 14,528 with 8 VMs, with an average aggregate latency of 17.7ms, and a worst-case scenario latency of 32.5ms. In our SQL Server benchmark, the R630 had an aggregate score of 12,551.7 TPS with an average aggregate latency of 36.3ms.

Bottom Line

Coming in a compact form, the Dell PowerEdge R630 has the kind of performance that can surprise you. As with most units in the PowerEdge line, there is enough customizability for the R630 to satisfy any requirements.
With its 2 way Server Scalability, Intel Xeon E5-2660V3 / 2.6 GHz CPU and 8 Hot-Swap Bays, Dell has pulled all the stops in making the PowerEdge R630 a state-of-the-art machine that serves all its intended purposes. It offers much versatility in terms of storage, design and build, which is something that clients look forward to. There has been a very consistent effort in the design that allows for optimum space utilization and allows for expansion if the client so desires. Users are free to choose power options as well. One thing that clients are going to love about the Dell PowerEdge R630 is the extent to which the server can be customizable for specific needs. Dell has empowered clients by giving them a solution that can be fit to meet any requirement. Ideally, the Dell PowerEdge R630 would be perfect for a software environment defined by Dell and there is no need for any customization. That Dell has been able to pack so much into a compact design such as the Dell PowerEdge R630 speaks volumes about their much vaunted engineering expertise. All the performance indicators have been exceptional and provides the right kind of output expected of a Dell product.