Dell EMC PowerEdge XE7100 Power Consumption
The Dell EMC PowerEdge XE7100 is a very complex and configurable system, it is also a very large system.
This is going to sound strange for some of our readers, but this is an interesting system with 100x Seagate EXOS X16 12TB drives, we somewhat have a floor if everything is spinning. At idle, those drives use around 5W each and can hit 10W. With 100 drives, that is 0.5-1kW of power consumption for the drives and that is without the SAS infrastructure, SSDs, dual CPU nodes/ GPUs, memory, NICs, cooling. This is a system that can hit 2kW without much difficulty with its configurations.
At the same time, that 2kW is for a 5U system which is “only” 500W/ U. That is very manageable. Another consideration is frankly how many drives one can put in a rack. Racks have weight limits so that may limit how many of these systems can be used in a rack. Also, since they are top-loading, anything above eye height requires a step/ ladder to service. With 100 drives, there is a non-zero chance the system will see a drive fail every year. The point here is that the node density is one aspect, but also there will be practical deployment considerations that go well beyond power consumption.
STH Server Spider: Dell EMC PowerEdge XE7100
In the second half of 2018, we introduced the STH Server Spider as a quick reference to where a server system’s aptitude lies. Our goal is to start giving a quick visual depiction of the types of parameters that a server is targeted at.
As much as the two dual-socket nodes and GPU/ NVMe storage options add to flexibility, this system is not a dense way to get compute. Instead, it is a dense way to get a lot of drives into 5U of space. This is one of the more singular focus STH Server Spiders you will see. While many systems try to be good at many things, this is a system that only makes sense if you need dense 3.5″ storage.
Overall, this is a really great system from Dell. The engineers behind this platform did a great job going beyond a standard industry practice of sticking a low-power node into a long 4U system. Instead, they realized that with top-loading storage there are practical density limitations for many of its customer base. Instead of design a 4U system, the move to a 5U chassis added for compute flexibility.
The main issue with this system is not the hardware, it is the marketing. The company is, in the footnotes, comparing this system to the HPE Apollo 4510. That is the wrong comparison point. Having the XE7100 is not going to get a customer with many racks of HPE gear switch to Dell. Instead, this is an important system for another reason, the real competition.
Here is a quick look from 1Q18 to 3Q20 figures from the IDC Quarterly Server Tracker that we showed here. Dell, HPE, and Lenovo are lumped together. Trend lines are added to the view which fairly clearly shows what is happening in the industry.
As more companies embrace cloud and open standards, there is a migration away from large legacy vendors. In the SMB/ SME/ enterprise space where Dell’s customer base primarily resides, there are a number of platform capabilities that draw customers to use other white box or lower-cost vendors. Some are a simple as high-end 8x GPU servers. Over the years, a significant one has been companies that want dense top-loading storage servers. Organizations that decided to build dense Ceph clusters, as an example, often looked to alternative suppliers that were building these solutions for cloud providers. Dell was in a difficult place since building open-source storage clusters is a force that puts pressure on legacy EMC revenue.
The significance of the Dell EMC PowerEdge XE7100 is not that Dell has a better box than HPE. Instead, it is that the company has an absolutely excellent system that has enough capacity, and flexibility to meet the majority of its customers’ needs. The real power of having a well-designed solution is that the XE7100 prevents customers from needing to look beyond the Dell EMC ecosystem.