Summary: The PowerEdge 2650 packs more processing into a 2U-high configuration than any server we’ve seen. The dual Xeon configuration with hyperthreading and on-board RAID makes this the most powerful server available for under $5,000. Dell’s Web Server software bundle is superb.
Price: Base price, $2,199 Price as reviewed, $4,779
Three-year warranty; Technical support available M-F 8am-6pm; 24×7 and same-day support available at extra cost.
Dual 2.0GHz Xeon processors
1GB RAM, PERC 3/Di RAID controller
Two 36GB 10K hard drives
Dual Gigabit Ethernet NICs
Dual hot-swap power supplies
Onboard remote access processor
Fastest 2U server we’ve seen
RAID and remote administration card don’t use expansion slots
Web Server software makes server exceptionally easy to manage
RAID controller takes forever to spin up, slowing down boots
Some competing 2U servers have six internal drives plus CD-ROM and floppy
The main cooling fans are very noisy
Dell’s newest server, the PowerEdge 2650, makes its predecessors look sad. Placed side by side, the two-and-a-half-year-old PowerEdge 2450 and the brand-new PowerEdge 2650 look like siblings: both are two rack units (3.5 inches high), both have dual processors, and both have five SCSI hard drives connected to a built-in RAID controller.
But when you look a little closer, there’s no doubt which server rules the roost. The 2450 server is powered by two 733MHz Pentium III processors, with a 100MHz front-side bus. Dell’s new powerhouse uses two 2GHz Intel Xeon chips, with a 400MHz system bus. Given that kind of horsepower, dual on-board Gigabit Ethernet network interfaces, maximum capacity for 6GB of RAM, a 3.2GB/sec I/O bus, Ultra160 SCSI PERC 3/Di RAID controller, a and high-speed PCI-X bus, the 2650 is a fire-breathing dragon of a machine.
When you consider that the new Xeon processor includes hyperthreading — a feature that makes each chip look like two separate processors — it’s like having a four-way server. No major server maker has a Xeon-based 2U server, so the 2650 is already in a class by itself. Configured with two 36GB 10K drives and 1GB RAM, it’s priced at $4,779. (Dell offers the system with faster Xeon processors, currently up to 2.4GHz, but the price premium of $399 per processor isn’t money well spent. Put your extra cash towards more memory and you’ll get more performance bang for your bucks.)
Okay, enough hardware-babble. Dell shipped the system preloaded with Red Hat Linux 7.2 — the version with the 2.4.7-10 Enterprise kernel. Dell did a nice job on the preload: everything worked the first time, including the NICs and the video. Dell also ensured that the kernel version is correct to support the Xeon’s hyperthreading (something that may not work with a shrinkwrap copy of Red Hat 7.2).
The best part of unwrapping this new machine was Dell’s PowerEdge Web Server bundle, which was also preloaded. Currently, Dell ships version 3.0 of the software with smaller PowerEdge 1650 servers, but the company also provided us with a beta of version 3.1 designed for the PowerEdge 2650. Of course, we loaded it right away. The bundle, easily managed locally or remotely through a browser, adds the usual suspects: Apache 1.3, the Front Page Extensions, Courier web mail, MySQL, SendMail, OpenSSL and OpenSSH, and drivers for communicating with Dell’s network attached storage systems.
The Web-based console makes it pretty easy to administer Apache — you can create different user names and assign different privileges to each user for different sites. We didn’t have any problems at all with the version 1.3 beta, which now encrypts the management console using SSL, and has wizards for configuring Courier, DNS, and database connectivity. We also didn’t have any trouble setting up site administration, configuring mail, and bringing several Web sites online.
Bottom line: The PowerEdge 2650 is unbeatable. The dual Xeon configuration with hyperthreading and on-board RAID makes this the most powerful server available for under $5,000. Dell’s Web Server software bundle makes this server about as easy to manage as a Cobalt Qube.
If you’re shopping for a rack-mount Linux server with leading-edge hardware at a leading-edge price, The PowerEdge 2650 is the one to choose. If you want a Web Server, the Dell software is icing on the cake. Sorry, PowerEdge 2450: You’re history.
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