Virtually Perfect in Every Way: Dell PowerEdge 12th generation servers

This post was co-written by Robert Bradfield and Marc Stitt, Senior Manager, Product Marketing, Dell

This blog is one of a 12-part series, “12 blogs for the Dell PowerEdge 12th Generation.” For more in the series, please check here, or click on the “12 blogs” tag at the bottom of the post.

When Dell first set out to design the next generation of PowerEdge servers over three years ago, we were consistently reminded that virtualization was becoming ever more central to our customers’ data center operations.  With this in mind, we chose to focus a significant portion of our design efforts towards the critical aspects of server and desktop virtualization, with a clear focus on the directional trends and new challenges those environments presented moving forward.

The first aspects of virtualization that we considered were the ‘Big Three’ areas key to virtualization performance – processor performance, memory capacity, and I/O throughput.  We knew that these areas had to continue to evolve.

Processor Performance – Our latest servers are powered with the new Intel Xeon E5 family of processors, which has increased some measures of computation performance by up to 109% over the previous generation; a tremendous jump! This allows more complex and processor-intensive virtual machines than ever before.

Memory Capacity – These more complex and larger VMs drive increasing demands on the amount of physical RAM, a factor that is multiplied further by the accelerating trend towards ever denser virtualization environments.  That’s why we built our 12th generation of servers to have exceptional memory capacity, including the greatest memory density that’s ever been achieved in a PowerEdge server.  We can place up to 16 of the new M620 blade servers – each with up to 768GB of RAM – in a single M1000e enclosure.  That’s 12TB of RAM in just 10U of rack space.

I/O Throughput – Of course, with more and larger virtual machines in less space, the ability to transfer data between servers and end-users is critical.  With the  PowerEdge 12th generation servers, Dell has increased exponentially the networking and I/O capabilities.  With the latest Gen3 PCIe technology and Dell innovations such as the PowerEdge Select Network Adapter and Switch Independent Partitioning, you can customize your throughput based on your specific physical environment, application needs, and Quality of Service requirements.

Desktop virtualization development led us to increase our focus on graphics performance.  Virtual desktops in a ‘thin client’ setup have traditionally been limited to fairly lightweight basic business applications, since server graphics chipsets were essentially incapable of handling 3D or even complicated 2D graphics rendering.  Dell now offers true Gen3 x16 PCIe support in platforms such as the R720 and T620, allowing for the integration of high-performance graphics cards like the nVidia M2070Q and AMD FirePro V7800P.  Complex desktop environments can finally take advantage of the many benefits of virtualization without sacrificing performance or using dedicated client-based graphics rendering.

The accelerating need for overall virtual environment management caused us to redouble our efforts in hardware manageability and management integration.   Dell has long been a leader in management integration, and virtualization management is no exception.  Our close partnerships with such industry leaders as Microsoft and VMware give you the ability to tie Dell hardware management directly into the consoles you use to manage your physical and virtual environments.

Dell has been at the forefront of embedded hypervisor integration for a number of years, and just released Failsafe Virtualization technology – a unique redundant SD media infrastructure providing failover for embedded hypervisors – in our last generation of hardware.  With hypervisors continuing to move toward embedded hypervisor code, it was clear that the traditional software agent model needed to be revamped.  Our previous generation of PowerEdge servers offered customers the ability to deploy, update, and maintain their servers without requiring software agents. Now we’ve extended our bare-metal, out-of-band management capabilities to include monitoring.  This totally removes the dependence on a functioning, uncorrupted operating system and its corresponding software agent to provide system state and hardware information.  With the latest generation of the embedded Dell Remote Access Controller, the iDRAC7, Dell is the first to offer totally ‘agent-free’ hardware management throughout the server lifecycle.

Today’s IT organizations are virtualizing their data centers so they have the option to move to a more dynamic or cloud-based approach to supporting business growth and change. Taking advantage of their virtual infrastructure as a foundation for private cloud management enables customers to drive increased business agility and delivery IT-as-a-service, increase automation and enable rapid workload deployment, as well as optimize converged infrastructure and operations.  Dell vStart is a converged infrastructure solution that enables IT and business stakeholders to accelerate application and IT service delivery using pre-engineered and pre-built solution components using best-of-breed technologies spanning Dell server, storage, network, and management solutions and leveraging VMware vSphere and Microsoft Hyper-V virtualization platforms.

Because highly virtualized environments are becoming increasingly complex to manage, Dell also offers converged IT operations management solutions that combine and collapse key functionality in a way that adapts to the management solutions that may already be in place from other providers. For example, Dell VIS Creator provides automated, self-service delivery of IT resources so authorized users can quickly deploy workloads. And with Dell Advanced Infrastructure Manager (AIM), customers can automate workload mobility and enable recovery management in heterogeneous infrastructures. Together these solutions help IT organizations deliver enterprise private clouds which leverage Dell’s 12th generation servers and virtualization technologies to gain greater IT agility and operational efficiency.

Dell’s commitment to all of the aspects of virtualization – from hardware optimization and environmental tuning to comprehensive hardware management and innovative workload orchestration capabilities – Dell confidently believes that the latest powerful and flexible Enterprise-class PowerEdge servers are a ‘virtually perfect’ choice for our customers.

About the Author: Robert Bradfield