Dell 12th Generation Server Cheat Sheet

Over the past several months, Dell has been rolling out a number of new 12th generation servers that all use the new 32nm Intel Xeon E5 series processor (aka Sandy Bridge-EP). These new servers all have much higher memory density and more PCI-E slots (which are also PCI-E 3.0) compared to the older 11th generation Intel based servers that used the 32nm Intel Xeon 5600 series processor (aka Westmere-EP). These new servers are a huge improvement over the previous models.

Several of these new server models were just announced this week, and are not yet available for sale, while several others have been available for a couple of months now. The new models include three entry level servers (R320, R420, and R520) that use the new 32nm Intel Xeon E5-2400 series processor, and the new quad-socket PowerEdge R820 that uses the new 32nm Intel Xeon E5-4600 series processor. In case you are not fluent in how to decode Dell server model numbers, the R means rack-mounted, the first numerical digit is an indication of where the model fits in the overall lineup (with entry level models having lower numbers), the second numerical digit is the generation ( 1 means 11th Gen, 2 means 12th Gen), and the final numerical digit tells you whether it is an Intel based model or an AMD based model (0 means Intel, 5 means AMD).

So, if you are not a complete hardware geek like me, here is a handy little cheat sheet that lays out the major differences between these seven models. For memory capacity, I am assuming the use of 16GB DIMMs, since 32GB DIMMs are still extremely expensive, and frankly don’t make economic sense. From a processor choice perspective, each of these model servers are available with Sandy Bridge-EP processors that have either 4, 6, or 8 physical cores. In some cases (E5-2600 and E5-4600 series), you can choose a processor model that has fewer physical cores, but a higher base clock speed. This could make sense if you had an OLTP workload and are worried about the core-based licensing in SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition.

Personally, I really like the R720xd model, with up to (26) 2.5” internal drive bays. I suspect that a very high percentage of SQL Server workloads would run extremely well on one of those. If twenty-six internal drives did not give you enough I/O performance and disk space, you could always add some Fusion-io cards and/or use some external DAS enclosures or a SAN. If you can partition your workload across multiple servers, two R720xd servers would be much better than one R820 server, since you would have faster, less expensive processors, over three times as many internal drive bays, and nearly twice as many PCI-E expansion slots for things like RAID controllers or HBAs.

As a DBA, I would be actively lobbying against using the R420 or R520 models, since they use the lower-end E5-2400 series processors, which have lower clock speeds and less memory bandwidth compared to the E5-2600 series used in the R620, R720, and R720xd. They also have have half the memory capacity and fewer PCI-E slots. They are less expensive, but the hardware cost delta is pretty small compared to the SQL Server license costs, especially for SQL Server 2012. Remember, you are paying based on physical core counts, so you want to get the best package you can as far as the rest of the server goes. I can see where the R320 could be a good choice for a smaller workload, where you can still get 96GB of RAM in a one socket server. Don’t forget that SQL Server 2008 R2 and 2012 Standard Edition are limited to using 64GB of RAM.

 

Dell PowerEdge R320

1U form factor, one CPU socket, uses Intel Xeon E5-2400 series, 6 memory slots (96GB RAM),  (8) 2.5” drive bays, (1) x8 and (1) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 4, 6, or 8 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes.  Total of 8, 12, or 16 logical cores with HT enabled.

 

Dell PowerEdge R420

1U form factor, two CPU sockets, uses Intel Xeon E5-2400 series, 12 memory slots (192GB RAM), (8) 2.5” drive bays,  (2) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 8, 12, or 16 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes. Total of 16, 24, or 32 logical cores with HT enabled.

 

Dell PowerEdge R520

2U form factor, two CPU sockets, uses Intel Xeon E5-2400 series, 12 memory slots (192GB RAM), (8) 3.5” drive bays, (3) x8 and (1) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 8, 12, or 16 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes. Total of 16, 24, or 32 logical cores with HT enabled.

 

Dell PowerEdge R620

1U form factor, two CPU sockets, uses Intel Xeon E5-2600 series, 24 memory slots (384GB RAM), (10) 2.5” drive bays, (1) x8 and (2) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 8, 12, or 16 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes. Total of 16, 24, or 32 logical cores with HT enabled

 

Dell PowerEdge R720

2U form factor, two CPU sockets, uses Intel Xeon E5-2600 series, 24 memory slots (384GB RAM), (16) 2.5” drive bays, (6) x8 and (1) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 8, 12, or 16 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes. Total of 16, 24, or 32 logical cores with HT enabled

 

Dell PowerEdge R720xd

2U form factor, two CPU sockets, uses Intel Xeon E5-2600 series, 24 memory slots (384GB RAM), (26) 2.5” drive bays, (4) x8 and (2) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 8, 12, or 16 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes. Total of 16, 24, or 32 logical cores with HT enabled

 

Dell PowerEdge R820

2U form factor, four CPU sockets, uses Intel Xeon E5-4600 series, 48 memory slots (768GB RAM), (16) 2.5” drive bays, (5) x8 and (2) x16 PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots

Total of 16, 24, or 32 physical cores for SQL Server 2012 Enterprise Edition licensing purposes. Total of 32, 48, or 64 logical cores with HT enabled

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10 Responses to Dell 12th Generation Server Cheat Sheet

  1. Jesse G says:

    Thoughts on intel E5-4650 vs E5-2690? Specifically, how much does the slower cpu speed cost (2.7 vs 2.9) cost terms in performance?

    • Glenn Berry says:

      I like the E5-2690 much better than the E5-4560. It is not just the base clock speed difference, but several other factors as well. First is the processor cost, which is $2061 for the E5-2690 vs. $3620 for the E5-4650. Second is the Turbo boost speed, which is 3.8GHz for the E5-2690 vs. 3.3GHz for the E5-4650. Finally, even with the same processor, a four socket server is not twice as “good” as a two socket server, even with NUMA. It will not scale in a 100% linear fashion.

    • Glenn Berry says:

      The E5-2690 will probably be 15-20% faster, depending on the workload because of the faster base clock speed and the faster Turbo Boost speeds.

  2. sensware says:

    Excellent compilation Glen,
    One interesting IO option that I would add for R720xd model and others is that Dell also offers the CacheCade technology for Dell PERC H700 and H800 controllers with 1 GB NVRAM and firmware version 7.2 or later. This is an excellent solution that combines SSD with regular HDD arrays in order to intelligently store the hot data on 1 or more SSDs (Maximum SSD pool is 512GB). I will probably blog on this soon as part of my SSD series.
    In their Whitepaper they claim to double the number of transaction using up to 4x50GB SSDs
    Read more here:

    http://www.dell.com/downloads/global/products/pedge/en/perc-h700-cachecade.pdf

    and here on technical details

    http://support.dell.com/support/edocs/software/svradmin/6.5/en/OMSS/HTML/ecache.htm

    Thanks,
    Luke

  3. Val says:

    Please note that CPUs for these servers are available with 2, 4, 6 or 8 cores. One can price/performance optimize based on this using the core MS licensing model.

    Perhaps many customers might want to spend less on MS core licenses and more on IO options such as CacheCade based SSDs, a bunch of SSDs or even PCIe SSDs to achive a more balanced solution ? Disk read/write IOs are so very often the issue blocking DB performance.

    Also remember the T320/420/620 are available as 5U units from the factory with room for 16 (T320/420) and 32 (T620) 2,5″ HDDs/SSDs. A lot of spindles to play with.

    In many cases a perfect small to medium DB solution.

  4. Brian says:

    How do the E5 processors compare to the E7 processors? I have been looking at the E5 processors in both Dell (720xd) and IBM (x3650 M4) servers, but was also considering an IBM x3690 X5 with E7 (10C) processors. The IBM x3690 supports multiple RAID controllers I was hoping would allow for more disk I/O. Our last two SQL servers have been IBM (x346, x3650 M1), and I have loved them. Quest Spotlight on SQL server has reported excessive disk I/O wait times on both.

  5. Will says:

    Hi Glenn. What is your view on holding back a new SSRS implementation to SQL 2008 R2 (Standard Edition) to make use of 8C processors or even to SQL 2008 (Standard) to make use of 8C processors and unlimited memory? The alternative is SQL 2012 and shelling out for double license costs or restricting ourselves to 4C processors.

    How much functionality would be lost?

  6. Glenn Berry says:

    Brian,

    The Intel Xeon E5-2600 family processors simply smoke the Intel Xeon E7 processors for single-threaded performance. The E5 is Sandy Bridge-EP, which is one generation newer than the E7 Westmere-EX. There are two socket servers, such as the Dell R720 that have seven PCI-E 3.0 expansion slots, which will give you a huge amount of I/O capacity. The E7-based servers only have PCI-E 2.0 support.

    For most workloads, I would strongly prefer an E5-2690 instead of an E7-4870.

  7. Glenn Berry says:

    Will,

    I am not an SSRS expert, but I don’t think that much new functionality was added to SSRS in SQL Server 2012. Depending on what you need to do with SSRS, using an older version might make sense from a license cost perspective.

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