Today, Dell EMC is announcing worldwide availability of the 14th generation of their PowerEdge server portfolio. While the two-month delay between their announcement at Dell EMC World and availability stems from Intel getting their new Xeon processors ready for market, Dell EMC is stressing that the key thing here isn’t coming from Intel. All the other server OEMs will enjoy the benefits of the Intel upgrades. Dell EMC is stressing three themes stemming from their own research – scalability, automation and security – and how they provide what the company calls the strongest compute platform for both traditional and cloud-native applications.
Whatever the specific announcements from Dell EMC are, it’s all about the strategy around them,” said Michael Sharun, President of the Dell EMC Canada Enterprise Division. “It’s all about those three key points – the scalable business architecture, the intelligent automation and the integrated security. That’s the strategy, tying these things together from a customer perspective. They don’t change from product to product. It’s what makes up the ‘bedrock of the modern data centre’ tagline that we use.”
Sharun said that the most noticeable thing about the new servers is the large overall increase in the amount of work they can do.
“It’s a hardware announcement, but it enables a lot of the software defined capabilities that customers need,” he said. “They can now do a lot more for less, and can do more workloads with less infrastructure. They won’t actuality have less infrastructure through, so in real terms it means much more workload capacity.”
The scalable business architecture comes mainly from Dell EMC’s own research, said Brian Payne, VP of Product Management and Product Marketing for PowerEdge Servers at Dell.
“It’s really about having the server infrastructure that’s necessary to power the variety of workloads that organizations are asked to support,” Payne said. “It’s a system level issue, not chip level, because it involves storage and memory as well. That’s where we have spent a lot of our effort.
“Dell is unique in having a wide slough of software-defined technologies that fit under our brand, both Dell EMC ones like Scale.io as well as affiliated ones like VMware. Payne stressed. “We have the ability to collaborate on bottlenecks in the server workload, which aren’t all the same, and vary depending on the software-defined workload.” That means, for example, that in a VMware vSAN cluster, up to a 12x improvement in database IOPS will result in up to 98 per cent less database latency. Similarly, live migration of virtual machines is now 58 per cent faster with up to 75 per cent less CPU usage when using 25GbE with Remote Direct Memory Access.
“We have also increased the bandwidth available by 250 per cent so servers can talk effectively,” Payne noted. “The front end of the servers has been resdesigned to facilitate a new fan technology that improves airflow by 50 per cent. We are not throttling application performance by wasting power on fans.”
The upshot of this is that the number of GPUs that can supported in a standard server has been increased by 50 per cent.
“In a VDI use case, we can deliver a 33 per cent increase in user density because we can support more GPUs in a given server,” Payne said.
“We are also working on IO technology to address other bottlenecks. All of this comes from a system level approach rather than just a CPU level.”
The intelligent automation enhancements are centred mainly around OpenManage Enterprise systems management.
“The OpenManage Enterprise management console has been made much more powerful,” said Kevin Noreen, Senior Director of Product Management at Dell EMC. “It can now autodiscover not just compute elements, but storage and hyper-converged like a VX Rail or XC platform, to discover their functionality. That’s important because those environments are very set in the way they need to be.”
“Expanding this capability with automation has been the core of our strategy,” Sharun said. “With the scale that these environments are growing, it’s impossible to manually look at them any more.”
The integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC9) has been enhanced to provide up to four times better systems management than before. performance compared to the prior generation.
“These are self driving servers, which understand the configurations they need,” Noreen said. “With zero-touch deployment, they will build out full configurations. They can also understand if there’s an update available and can update themselves. They can also phone him by themselves and create a trouble ticket to begin self-healing.”
Noreen noted a couple unique things in the iDRAC9 system management that should be of interest to channel partners.
“The PowerEdge 13G introduced the Quick Sync mobile app, and all the 14th generation servers have the option of Bluetooth connectivity,” he said. “iDRAC9 also has a connection view ability that provides a visual way of looking at the way things are configured.”
The extension of root or trust security protection is facilitated by Intel adding a new Boot Guard protection feature.
“We have incorporated Boot Guard as part of IDRAC9,” Noreen said. “Silicon-based root of trust itself is not new. We have had it since 12G, validating firmware and the BIOS. This now extends that with the chip now being part of it. One new feature unique to us is System Lockdown, a secondary BIOS which secures against unintended changes if a system is compromised.”
The new 14G servers include: the Dell EMC PowerEdge R640, a 1U/2-socket platform; the Dell EMC PowerEdge R740 a 2U/2S platform; the Dell EMC PowerEdge R740XD, a 2U/2S platform with maximized storage performance aimed at software defined storage, analytics and service providers; and the Dell EMC PowerEdge R940, a 3U/ 4S platform for demanding, mission critical workloads. The Dell EMC PowerEdge M640 and FC640 are modular servers designed for a Blade and Modular platform. The Dell EMC PowerEdge C6420 is tailored for high performance computing with a 2U/8S Modular platform.
Sharun emphasized that the new 14G servers are well adapted to the needs of channel partners today.
“The partner landscape is changing so quickly,” he said. “The server now is part of an overall strategy where, because it is part of the data centre, network and storage all flow over to the server side as an integrated package back to the customer. Partners who have already started transforming themselves to handle security with be able to architect solutions that handle security from the data centre all the way to the application. If done correctly, partners will be more relevant and able to grab a bigger part of the IT pie from the customer.”
Because the 14G is a compute platform for cloud-native applications as well as traditional ones, Sharun said that it fits into partners’ strategies around digital transformation.
“We see this as a way of accelerating adoption to the cloud,” he said. “A lot of organizations have only begun their digital transformation and this is a great tool to accelerate it.”