Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Review Unbridled Versatility

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Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd CPU Performance

As mentioned earlier in this article, we swapped sample pairs of processors from throughout the Intel Xeon Scalable range. We did not tell Dell EMC that we were doing this so they had no input on the process nor the CPUs used. At the same time, we wanted to provide a view of the different CPU levels. Intel has around 50 public domain Xeon Scalable (Skylake-SP) SKUs and the STH/ DemoEval lab has just over half of them on hand to use for testing. We did not have time to run through every set, so instead we picked a few samples to show how incrementing CPU levels impact performance.

Running through our standard test suite generated over 1000 data points for each set of CPUs. We are cherry picking a few to give some sense of CPU scaling.

Python Linux 4.4.2 Kernel Compile Benchmark

This is one of the most requested benchmarks for STH over the past few years. The task was simple, we have a standard configuration file, the Linux 4.4.2 kernel from kernel.org, and make the standard auto-generated configuration utilizing every thread in the system. We are expressing results in terms of compiles per hour to make the results easier to read.

Dell PowerEdge R740xd Linux Kernel Compile Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd Linux Kernel Compile Benchmark Options

This provides a nice stack ranking. As you can see, the Intel Xeon Gold range encompasses a wide variety of performance figures. You can check STH reviews for more about other Intel Xeon Gold series benchmarks to see parts like the Intel Xeon God 6134 and Xeon Gold 6136 which are frequency and cache optimized for “per core” software licensing models.

c-ray 1.1 Performance

We have been using c-ray for our performance testing for years now. It is a ray tracing benchmark that is extremely popular to show differences in processors under multi-threaded workloads. We are going to use our new Linux-Bench2 8K render to show differences.

Dell PowerEdge R740xd C Ray Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd C Ray Benchmark Options

When you look at the overall cost of a system, moving up from the Intel Xeon Bronze to Xeon Silver range is perhaps the “best bang for the buck” upgrade you can do. On a system like the Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd, we strongly advise skipping the Intel Xeon Bronze series unless you have extreme budget constraints. The impact of adding Hyper-Threading and higher clocks is readily apparent and will be in our other benchmarks as well.

7-zip Compression Performance

7-zip is a widely used compression/ decompression program that works cross-platform. We started using the program during our early days with Windows testing. It is now part of Linux-Bench.

Dell PowerEdge R740xd Compression Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd Compression Benchmark Options

On our compression test we see a similar ranking. Compression speeds have gotten so fast we routinely see them being used with great impact in modern servers.

OpenSSL Performance

OpenSSL is widely used to secure communications between servers. This is an important protocol in many server stacks. We first look at our sign tests:

Dell PowerEdge R740xd OpenSSL Sign Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd OpenSSL Sign Benchmark Options

Here are the verify results:

Dell PowerEdge R740xd OpenSSL Verify Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd OpenSSL Verify Benchmark Options

The dual Intel Xeon Platinum 8180 racks up another top spot. It has 28 cores / 56 threads and a massive 205W TDP which simply allows it to out-scale other Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs.

Chess Benchmarking

Chess is an interesting use case since it has almost unlimited complexity. Over the years, we have received a number of requests to bring back chess benchmarking. We have been profiling systems and are ready to start sharing results:

Dell PowerEdge R740xd Chess Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd Chess Benchmark Options

Here again, the relative cost of moving from the Xeon Bronze 3106 to an Intel Xeon Gold 5100 series CPU can be in the 15% or less of total system cost range. At the same time, performance goes up by 100-200%, and sometimes more. While we look at the Intel Xeon Bronze 3106, with the trends in hyper-converged and agile infrastructures, increasing the system cost slightly can extend the usefulness of a system in the field several times.

GROMACS STH Small AVX2/ AVX-512 Enabled

We have a small GROMACS molecule simulation we previewed in the first AMD EPYC 7601 Linux benchmarks piece. In Linux-Bench2 we are using a “small” test for single and dual socket capable machines. Our medium test is more appropriate for higher-end dual and quad socket machines. Our GROMACS test will use the AVX-512 and AVX2 extensions if available.

Dell PowerEdge R740xd GROMACS STH Small Benchmark Options
Dell PowerEdge R740xd GROMACS STH Small Benchmark Options

Here you can see the impact of dual port FMA on the Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs. The enormous gap between the Gold 6100 series and the Gold 5100 series and below is caused by a specific Intel feature. You can read more about that in our Intel Xeon Scalable Processor Family Microarchitecture Overview. Suffice to say there is an enormous impact with the feature in AVX-512 workloads.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740 Storage

Our test PowerEdge R740xd had a PERC H740P with 8GB NV cache. Unlike in the Dell EMC PowerEdge R640, our SAS3 controller in the R740xd is found in a PCIe expansion slot as we showed in our hardware overview. This SAS3 infrastructure provides hot-swap SAS3 connectivity to the front bays.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Hot Swap Bays
Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Hot Swap Bays

Along with the SAS3 connectivity, there is ample NVMe connectivity as we saw with PCIe cards and cables, and a special backplane, unique to Dell, that allows slots to utilize either NVMe or SAS3 in the same slot. How many slots and how many bays are active are configuration options for the Dell PowerEdge R740xd.

Keeping those valuable drive bays occupied with only high-value storage instead of lower value OS storage is a “cool” option of the Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd test system which is the Dell BOSS. This card has mirrored 120GB M.2 drives using a Marvell chipset, which can be used to boot into an OS or hypervisor such as VMware ESXi.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 BOSS With SSDs
Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 BOSS With SSDs

This allows Dell EMC to use higher-quality NAND than is found in most SD cards/ USB drives, to present an OS boot disk. Lest you think that the BOSS name is simply to get smirks from IT procurement and that this is simply a normal card, it even shows up as the DELLBOSS in systems.

Dell PowerEdge R740xd DELLBOSS
Dell PowerEdge R740xd DELLBOSS

The impact of that cannot be underestimated. One can install an OS on mirrored SSDs without utilizing valuable 2.5″ drive bays. In some cases, that can directly lead to chassis consolidation benefits.

The physical storage is, as you probably expect, tied into iDRAC 9. What that means is that one can see storage in the web management interface and that configuration can be passed to and from fleet management tools.

Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Overview
Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Overview

One can see the storage controllers and health of the PERC power backups from iDRAC.

Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Controllers
Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Controllers

One can also delve into disks. If you have ever experienced a need to upgrade firmware on drives and needed to find which disks in systems need the update, you will completely understand the power of this information.

Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Disks
Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Disks

As we mentioned earlier, BIOS settings changes via iDRAC 9 is a great feature. Unlike many of the low-cost servers available, one can configure RAID setups via the web UI. No need to go through posts spamming keyboard combinations, again this is here.

Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Create Virtual Disk
Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Create Virtual Disk

SSDs are extremely reliable, but they do infrequently fail. The storage management interface allows you to see provisioned global hot spares.

Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Assign Global Hot Spare
Dell EMC IDRAC 9 Storage Assign Global Hot Spare

Dell EMC has a huge selection of drives intended for specific applications and has taken the steps necessary to make them easy to manage.

Next, we are going to look at the Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd networking, power consumption, then give our final thoughts.

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REVIEW OVERVIEW
Design & Aesthetics
9.9
Performance
9.7
Feature Set
9.8
Value
9.5
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Patrick has been running STH since 2009 and covers a wide variety of SME, SMB, and SOHO IT topics. Patrick is a consultant in the technology industry and has worked with numerous large hardware and storage vendors in the Silicon Valley. The goal of STH is simply to help users find some information about server, storage and networking, building blocks. If you have any helpful information please feel free to post on the forums.

7 COMMENTS

  1. This is the most in-depth review I’ve ever seen on a server and 10x better than whitepapers. I really like that you went into performance with so many different CPU options. You could have said though that slower bronze and silver CPUs can’t use ddr4-2666 because of Intel’s limitation. You’ve still got a massive amount of information in here. I’m going to read again tomorrow and share with our team.

  2. Holy hell. What a review. We’ve got a few racks of these already. I’d wholeheartedly concur.

  3. It took me 32 minutes to read. You can almost turn this into a Kindle book but the pictures would suck. Really good STH. For me those servicing pics stand out and I’m normally a Lenovo admin. Maybe it’s time to look.

  4. HC node for sure. I’d echo the thoroughness comments. You’ve got everything here.

    Maybe you can do a video next time?

  5. Read pages 1 and 2. Coffee break. Read pages 3-5. Lunch. I agree you’d be better off turning this into a Kindle book.

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