back to article Dell PowerEdge R730: Reg rack monkeys crack smiles over kindness of engineers

Dell is a company with many arms: it does servers, laptops, desktops and like its competitors, tries to have those arms positioned in as many different areas of IT as possible. The server arm has extended us a Poweredge R730 2U server to review and it has served as a good reminder of why Dell servers are so popular. The …

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  1. Steve K Silver badge

    Decent configurator website too

    Unlike the other big boys (HP/IBM), Dell also actually have a decent configurator on their website for getting a publicly-available idea of the valid configuration options available, their cross-compatibility and the pricing for most of their mainstream kit.

    Steve

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Decent configurator website too

      Er.. how often do you use their configurator? I'll admit it's a great idea but I've lost count over the last few years where I've tried it use it and found some Muppet has hard coded Microsoft trial software into all the builds so anything Linux based falls over with an error.

      Anon, though I'll bet Dell knows who I am from the number of complaints I've made to them regarding this :)

      1. Gerhard Mack

        Re: Decent configurator website too

        This is only an issue with PCs and laptops, NAS (they run windows) and SAN storage units (they don't tell you until they are about to deliver that they require a Windows server to manage the SAN). For servers, there are very few I've come across that have any sort of Microsoft dependency.

  2. Bob H

    Redundancy

    Argh!

    Redundant: adjective - not or no longer needed or useful; superfluous.

    The power supplies aren't redundant, they are resilient, if they were redundant you wouldn't need them but I am fairly certain it doesn't have its own generator inside.

    Can people please stop referring to things as being redundant when they mean resilient?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Redundancy

      Engineering: Of a component not strictly necessary to functioning but included in case of failure in another component.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Redundancy

      When you have two PSUs each capable of powering the server, then one of the power supplies is redundant.

      Overall this makes for a system that it resilient to PSU failure (well the first one at least).

      1. Terry Barnes

        Re: Redundancy

        Yes, resilience is a state that can be achieved by employing redundancy

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Mephistro Silver badge

      Re: Redundancy (@ Bob H)

      One of the definitions of "redundant" in the Merriam-Webster online dictionary:

      —used to describe part of a machine, system, etc., that has the same function as another part and that exists so that the entire machine, system, etc., will not fail if the main part fails

      Seriously, this meaning of the word has been in use for more than 70 or 80 years. Any dictionary that only includes the definition in your comment is totally outdated.

  3. joewilliamsebs

    Nice kit...

    ...shame about the sales team.

    I clearly don't buy enough hardware to get someone at Dell who has any idea what they're talking about.

    1. Sloppy Crapmonster

      Re: Nice kit...

      I find that all I have to do is buy something from them -- then the salesdroids that ignore me the rest of the time won't leave me alone.

      I do like their servers for all the reasons listed in the article, though. Those rails really are nice.

    2. Jim 43

      Re: Nice kit...

      This one simple tip is shocked my last three bosses: You can have your Dell sales team replaced faster than a bad stick of RAM.

      Every email from a Dell sales rep contains contact info for their boss in the footer. Contact that boss and explain that you're not happy with your sales team and would like a replacement. They'll fix you right up.

      The number of times I've started a new job and gotten an earful of bile about how their hardware sales team sucks is amazing. One fscking phone call fixes it right up and people stare at me like I've cured cancer or something equally difficult.

  4. vmistery

    Now if they could not change my sales rep every 3 months that would be nice! Having to explain my situation and requirements each time and have them talk quite frankly a load of bull each time is something that really grinds with me. I used to have a great Rep, one that wouldn't try and rip me off and used to just give me the kit I asked for at decent prices. Now its all about 'solution' consultants and experts trying to sell me extras I frankly don't need.

    Apologies for the rant, I now feel better. As for the server no doubt I will be seeing one very soon.

  5. Alan Brown Silver badge

    Dell cable arms

    Tend to be fiddly.

    But anything's better than no arm. Why oh why do so many suppliers not even add them to the "options" list?

    1. n0r0imusha

      Re: Dell cable arms

      except that the cables inside it are bloody hot , basically blocks the airflow.

      1. Franco Silver badge

        Re: Dell cable arms

        Better that than HP's default cable management. If you don't order the arm you get a couple of bits of Velcro with a dog leash clip on the end to hold your cables.

  6. GrumpyOldMan

    I like the R7xx family. The 710s were nice, the 720's were great, the PERC could be a PITA but otherwise ok. Good solid servers, well thought out and iDRAC is great - I use it a lot. Agree with the reps comment though - does your head in after a while. Bigger shops have a dedicated rep for longer I've found. Not used a current 730 yet but would like to have a look one. I prefer them to the DL380's and iLO personally.

    1. Maventi

      Concur, the iDRAC is mostly superior. One useful thing the iLO has that I would love to see in iDRAC is the ability to mount ISO images directly off a web server. Just paste a URL into it and watch it boot and install.

  7. batfastad

    R720xd

    Wasn't the R720xd the one with 24 drive bays across the front and 2 at the rear?

    Is the R730xd the same?

    Always liked working with R720s. Apart from when you find that one iDRAC that isn't licensed (or some other bullsh1t) and it's the one you really really need.

    But compared to that old cabinet of Supermicros that everyone seems to have, working with Dells is typically great.

    Mobile app and NFC sounds intriguing, however I've found connectivity for emergency/personal devices is always a total mission in data centres.

    Wish I could do more kit wrangling - anyone got any jobs going? Clicking around AWS/vSphere isn't exactly why I got into computers. Would prefer to play with bits all day (ahem)!

    1. ledmil

      Re: R720xd

      Yes the R730xd is the same (up to 26 x 2.5 in drives. 24 round the front, 2 round the back). We now have a fair few in the field and I'd have to agree they are a good evolution.

      1. Gerhard Mack

        Re: R720xd

        "Yes the R730xd is the same (up to 26 x 2.5 in drives. 24 round the front, 2 round the back). We now have a fair few in the field and I'd have to agree they are a good evolution."

        I'm fond of the DDR4 and the little graph next to all of our SSD drives in the iDRAC that let me know how close the drive is to it's expected maximum number of writes.

    2. John Stoffel

      Re: R720xd

      I'm curious why you think the SuperMicros are hard to work with. I admit the remote managment interface isn't polished, but it does the trick and doesn't get in the way when you need, which is when stuff is titsup and you need remote access.

      God forbid you don't buy the practically required iDRAC license to actually make it useful. SuperMicro includes it for free, no hassles or upsell for something at should be part of the system requirements right off the bat.

    3. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: R720xd

      "But compared to that old cabinet of Supermicros that everyone seems to have, working with Dells is typically great."

      That's varied over time. I have several cabinets of Supermicros because they were better to work with than the contemporary Dells they replaced.

      1. batfastad

        Re: R720xd

        I don't want to totally diss Supermicros at all. But they're always a bit, you know... "GET... ON... THESE... EFFING... RAILSSSNNAAARRRGG! There, phew."

        The Supermicro IPMI is clunky but I agree, does the job. The Dell iDRAC license thing does hack me off massively, particularly these days when it's built in to the board. Fair enough when it used to be a separate BMC addon board.

        My home kit is always Supermicro.

  8. Michael Prior-Jones

    Minor pedantic point

    " the R730 uses about 150W of energy" - watts are a measure of power, which is energy consumption per unit time (per second, in the case of watts). You could say "the R370 has a power consumption of 150W", or "consumes 150W", but if you want to talk about energy you could say "a daily energy consumption of 3.6kWh", or even "an hourly energy consumption of 129 kilocalories, which is about the same as a Kellogg's Nutri-Grain bar per hour"...

  9. ColonelClaw

    Yup, can agree with everything written here. We've run an R720 for the last 3 years (basically identical, except for previous gen Xeon), and it's been excellent. When one of the mirrored system drives failed replacing it was a breeze (and free), and the iDrac thingy was a doddle.

    Best of all it runs in a warm air setup, and our server room often reaches 30+ degrees C when all the render nodes are going full chat - it's never complained once. Our old Fujitsu server melted under the same conditions, and required a motherboard swap-out.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    NVMe on the 730

    "For this iteration of the R730, Dell has removed support for nVME PCI-E SSDs."

    And El Reg didn't ask why?

    Dell intentionally removed functionality that was there before. The 720 series didn't have any NVMe limitations (I'm running Intel NVMe boards now in my 720s), and when I asked my Dell rep why I was forced to buy the 730XD even though I didn't need all the drive slots, but did need NVMe support, he mumbled a bunch and couldn't give any technical reason.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: NVMe on the 730

      "And El Reg didn't ask why?"

      Presumably because noone's buying NVMe drives - and if you look at their pricing you'll understand why.

  11. Pirate Dave
    Pirate

    "These are drive caddies that will sustain years of service, something that may mean little to some, but to folks like us who have done our time as rack monkeys it certainly is appreciated."

    Eh, I'd think if you're swapping the drives often enough for caddy wear-out to be an issue, then maybe you should have bought better drives to start with? If I have to swap a drive more than twice in a 5 year period, then something is wrong.

    I admit, the 2.5" spinning rust SAS drives HP has been shipping the past 2-3 years have had a very high failure rate, IMHO. Far more than the 3.5" U-320 drives I got from IBM 10 years ago (which are mostly all still running as of today). But even so, I don't think any of the HPs have failed twice. Yet.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      "Eh, I'd think if you're swapping the drives often enough for caddy wear-out to be an issue, then maybe you should have bought better drives to start with? If I have to swap a drive more than twice in a 5 year period, then something is wrong."

      Ditto.

      Having said that, ANY caddy which doesn't include the necessary screws for mounting a drive is one that needs ramming up the arse of the designer. Far too often the dummy insert is just clipped in via moulded studs or only held with 2 screws. Provide all 4 screws or make it so drives clip in.

      1. Pirate Dave

        "Provide all 4 screws or make it so drives clip in."

        Verily, verily. Amen.

      2. Gerhard Mack

        @Alan Brown

        "Having said that, ANY caddy which doesn't include the necessary screws for mounting a drive is one that needs ramming up the arse of the designer. Far too often the dummy insert is just clipped in via moulded studs or only held with 2 screws. Provide all 4 screws or make it so drives clip in."

        But if they did that, then you would be more likely to buy your own drives rather than Dell SAS drives at 2x the OEM price (4x if SSD).

    2. HWwiz

      I replace about 5 to 6 Dell 900GB drives every night.

      But we do have 7,500 R720's !.

      They are a pain in the rear, as dell don't ship the Carrier anymore, just the bare drive. So you have to swap the drive into the old carrier. Dropping the screws through the vented floor in the process... Ughhhh

      1. Down not across

        replacing disks

        I replace about 5 to 6 Dell 900GB drives every night.

        But we do have 7,500 R720's !.

        They are a pain in the rear, as dell don't ship the Carrier anymore, just the bare drive. So you have to swap the drive into the old carrier. Dropping the screws through the vented floor in the process... Ughhhh

        If it was me, I'd acquire half a dozen carriers and pre-install the disks into carriers at my desk. After the round in DC, remove the dead ones from carriers, send them back. Rinse and repeat.

    3. Jason 24

      "Eh, I'd think if you're swapping the drives often enough for caddy wear-out to be an issue, then maybe you should have bought better drives to start with?"

      My last place bought a bunch of really cheap dell servers, and went so cheap as to not to get hotswap drives and no cable arrms. Within a week we realised we had a whole batch of dodgy disks. That wasn't much fun.

      As for the article, " the other drive caddies were placeholder dummy caddies."

      As it is for all Dell servers, so you have to buy their drives. Until you've enough dead servers to cannibalise the caddys from.

      1. Richard Gadsden

        Sometimes, you can buy a bottom-end drive from Dell (used to be a 73GB drive, it's probably bigger now) with the caddy and the drive you actually want from another supplier and swap the drive into the Dell caddy for less than buy a sensible-capacity drive from Dell with caddy - which then gives you a cheap, crap HDD to throw away.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Comparison with HPQ and/or Lenovo equivalents?

    Any plans?

    Is iDRAC (etc) based around Intel AMT/vPro which seems to be increasingly out of favour with what used to be called the "tin foil hat crowd"?

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Comparison with HPQ and/or Lenovo equivalents?

      "Is iDRAC (etc) based around Intel AMT/vPro which seems to be increasingly out of favour with what used to be called the "tin foil hat crowd"?"

      No, it's a type of IPMI - and almost unusable without buying the (pricey) upgrade license for full functionality.

      As others have mentioned: Supermicro build the IPMI in (they used to be optional, but stopped happenning 7-8 years ago). There's an optional upgrade in a lot of newer systems to allow bios flashing via the IPMI but that's not 100% necessary and doesn't affect standard functionality.

      One other factor not mentioned when buying servers: ALWAYS factor in the cost of 3 or 5 year support when comparing prices, not just that of the hardware.

      You're stupid not to take this unless you've got a LOT of hardware and can afford to carry spares yourself (take 8*5*NDB. The higher levels of service are only useful for critical kit). It's cheaper to buy this upfront no matter what brand you get and it means that if there's a problem you get parts without having to jump through a mass of hoops to get them.

      If you have a serious server room, then you need one of THESE: http://serverlift.com/solutions/products/sl500x-server-lift/ They're cheaper than paying the medical costs when someone gets injured lifting heavy kit into a rack (and they make installation of just about anything a relaxed one man operation, no matter how large/heavy.)

  13. John Stoffel

    iDRAC is a scam, as is this review!

    If you buy one of these, or any Dell server with iDRAC, do not believe them when they say that the basic license included with the system is actually usable. It's not. So you need to go back and update this review with the cost of the enterprise iDRAC license to actually be able to manage this system remotely. Which is a complete ripoff.

    I've got a bunch of SuperMicro FatTwins and they rock. The remotemanagement interface is barebones, but it works from the get go, without any need for an extra license so that you can acutally manage the server remotely.

    And HP is just as bad as Dell. The DL360G7 series (don't know about the more recent ones) would show you the BIOS console, but once the OS booted up, fuck you unless you paid the $300 for the full iLO3 license.

    So just make sure you include that in the above quoted numbers, because it makes a big difference in the upfront cost, and really makes you look stupid when you don't bother to order it at the start. Fuckers.

    1. doug_iler@dell

      Re: iDRAC is a scam, as is this review!

      John, sorry about your experience with the various iDRAC licensing options. Feel free to contact me directly at doug_iler@dell.com if you'd like to discuss further.

      thanks

      Doug Iler

      iDRAC Product Manager

      Dell Enterprise Product Group

  14. FreeTard

    Nice article, I have a few of them on order to expand the vSphere cluster - currently 720xd's whichI've been very happy with for the workloads in use.

  15. Hatless Pemberty
    Boffin

    Configuration

    You really do not want to configure anything inside iDRAC by hand (specially as the location of everything seems to change from one firmware release to the next.) Instead use the MAC address to feed basic IP parameters from a DHCP server and do the rest via racadm or ws-man (IPMI is just too useless and insecure.)

    And you may also want to generate a new SSL certificate as these things all come from factory using '01' as the serial (which can create all sorts of annoyances down the line.) I mention this because mamy people forget and the procedure, although simple, is surprinsingly poorly documented.

    Also, the reference price given in the article is quite misleading. If the hardware configuration is so basic as to cost so little, then you're better off with a more basic model. Products like the R720 and R730 series are only worth it if you load them and then the cost will be 10 times that. And keep in mind that the chassis and the wiring for the disk controllers varies with model variant so if you buy an X-disk configuration you might not be able to upgrade later to the 2X-disk configuration (at least not easily.)

    Oh, one more thing. The disk caddies are not considered FRUs so generally you cannot buy extra ones and add generic disks (If nothing else the Lifecycle Controller will balk at the firmware not being what it expects and chances are that the PERC raid controllers won't accept them either - never tried though.)

    I guess what I'm saying is that these are not like Supermicro whiteboxes but from Dell and it might not always be sensible to treat them as such. Sometimes you need a Dell or an HP and sometimes a whitebox will do.

    1. randommagic

      Re: Configuration

      Interestingly the firmware issue was removed a long time ago so you can in fact use any drives. Caddies are also available from third parties and Dell can quote them if you speak to the right person.

  16. John Klos

    All the world runs Windows...

    ...and is happy to install crappy Java, it seems.

    The review mentions an Android app but doesn't say clearly whether there is or isn't an iOS app. Also, aren't we (meaning systems administrators) abundantly aware of the insecurities of Java?

    While it's been ages since I've bought Dell hardware, I would like to know if new systems are configurable using NON-Windows, NON-proprietary Java.

    1. Maventi

      Re: All the world runs Windows...

      "While it's been ages since I've bought Dell hardware, I would like to know if new systems are configurable using NON-Windows, NON-proprietary Java."

      Well the iDRAC is mainly web-based, and while the console uses Java it works fine with the non-proprietary OpenJDK. No Oracle required.

      Still, it would be nice if Dell would get with the times.

      1. doug_iler@dell

        Re: All the world runs Windows...

        Maventi,

        Dell will offer an HTML5 option to access virtual console and virtual media in mid-March with iDRAC firmware 2.30.30.30. This firmware applies to both 12th generation iDRAC7 and 13th generation iDRAC8.

        thanks -

        Doug

        Doug Iler

        iDRAC Product Manager

        Dell Enterprise Product Group

    2. doug_iler@dell

      Re: All the world runs Windows...

      John,

      yes, there is a version of the OpenManage Mobile app available for iOS.

      Additionally, iDRAC will offer an HTML5 option for both 12th generation iDRAC7 and 13th generation iDRAC8 in mid March with the 2.30.30.30 firmware release.

      So both new and past generations will have the option to not use Java or ActiveX to access the virtual console or use virtual media.

      thanks -

      Doug

      Doug Iler

      iDRAC Product Manager

      Dell Enterprise Product Group

  17. Richard Lloyd

    You need Enterprise iDRAC and I hate Java consoles too

    The standard iDRAC doesn't let you do much (shows info you can already get from the free OMSA tool and also can power cycle the server), but the "Enterprise" iDRAC costing many hundreds of pounds extra gives you the crucial remote console that can save your bacon on many occasions.

    Sadly, the remote console uses a Java VNC applet (even on this R730 it seems!) which is the flakiest known software to man/woman. You're presented with a myriad of security pop-ups (at least one of which comes up every time with no way to say "don't alert me next time"), you have to auth the iDRAC URL in your Java control panel because the iDRAC web interface uses a self-signed cert and even when you finally get to the console window, Java will either crash or refuse to connect most of the time (spawning a second console from the first one will often fix this).

    Add the fact that Java plugin support is rapidly disappearing from browsers (it was dropped ages ago with Linux Chrome for example) and the existence of the non-Java noVNC tool (yoohoo Dell - why not try it? Proxmox have used it for a while and it's really sweet to use), then the iDRAC console is nothing short of an abomination. When you really need to use it quickly, working 1 time in 6 doesn't cut it.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. doug_iler@dell

      Re: You need Enterprise iDRAC and I hate Java consoles too

      Richard,

      Dell will offer an HTML5 option to access virtual console and virtual media in mid-March with iDRAC firmware 2.30.30.30. This firmware applies to both 12th generation iDRAC7 and 13th generation iDRAC8.

      Also, Dell currently ships a VNC based vConsole, which does not require Java. Of course, if you are using Windows IE, you can also use ActiveX based vConsole

      Please feel free to contact me directly to discuss the issues you've had with iDRAC.

      thanks -

      Doug

      Doug Iler

      doug_iler@dell.com

      iDRAC Product Manager

      Dell Enterprise Product Group

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