Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 Server ReviewAugust 3, 2018
The Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 server is a high-density 1U platform that supports one or two Intel Xeon Scalable processors. This platform is designed for scale-out data center applications. System Administrators also have options with preconfigured nodes that can be deployed for ScaleIO and VSAN, a core building block for the software-defined data center. Some of the new features on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 server include support for more NVMe direct-attached drives to reduce latency. Support for NVDIMM modules for resilience, improvements to security and management with iDRAC9 and QuickSync. And of course, Intel’s new Scalable processors delivering faster processing, plus support for more memory channels and faster memory modules.
The example we have here today has two Gold Scalable 6140 processors
with eight 960 GigaByte SATA SSD drives,
eight 32GB DDR4 memory modules capable of speeds of up to 2666MHz,
one of the new H740P HD RAID controllers,
an optional tamper proof module,
a Network Daughter Card supporting two 10Gb/s ports with two 1 Gb/s ports,
an optional 4-port add in NIC card occupying PCIe slot #1,
and a full bank of eight high-performance fans keeping everything nice and cool.
You can install one or two Intel Scalable processors with up to 28 cores each, supporting speeds of up to 2666MHz. And, once again, that includes any processor in the Scalable family, because they all share the same architecture and socket P configuration. That said, The R640 is a high-performance appliance and is crying for some love in the form of those high-end processors in the Gold and Platinum category.
There are also a few thermal restrictions on the processors depending on your configuration. But the good news is, you don’t have to worry about using those “M” designated processors that can handle 1.5TB of memory each, to achieve maximum memory saturation. Instead, you can go with the other, less expensive, and that term is relative of course, Xeon family members that support 768GB each for a grand total of 1.5TB with dual processors. If you’re curious, that would be the same memory capacity as the older generation R630.
However, even though the older generation does support the same memory capacity, memory speed takes a bump from 2400MHz max., to 2666MHz! The Scalable processors also deliver two more memory channels, for a total of six channels per processor. And while the R630 only supported four memory channels with three DIMMs per channel, we now have six channels with two memory modules per channel, and that makes for significantly increased throughput. But remember, memory speed is dependent on both processor speed, memory speed, configuration and will default to the slowest performer.
You can install up to 12 NVDIMM-N in configurations with 1, 2, 4, 6, or 12 NVDIMMs but they must be pared with a minimum of 12 Registered DIMMs, and require a dual processor configuration. Load reduced DIMMs are not supported. If, this system was set up for NVDIMM modules, the battery would be installed on the SAS expander board directly behind the HD backplane.
You may be asking yourself at this point, how do the NVDIMM-N modules work? In a nut shell, it has a combination of DDR4 DRAM paired with a NAND Flash component.
DRAM is volatile and will very quickly lose data when power is removed. NAND is non-volatile, so when power is removed it will still retain the data indefinitely (SAVE signal is sent to NVDIMM Controller). The DRAM component allows the processor to recognize the module as an RDIMM module. NVDIMM-N modules rely on an integrated NVDIMM controller to transfer data from DRAM to NAND Flash, and a power voltage regulator that’s connected to an internal battery with power delivery integrated into the system board.
If power is interrupted, the battery will power the DRAM component for a little over a minute enabling the NVDIMM-N controller to transfer memory to the NAND Flash component. It doesn’t matter if you have a single NVDIMM module or 12 NVDIMMs installed, all modules run in parallel and will transfer all data from DRAM to Flash within about one minute. And whether you install a single NVDIMM module or 12, you still need to pair that with a of 12 RDIMM modules.
Once the system is powered back on, the system determines if the data on the NVDIMM Flash storage or up front storage devices is more current and pulls the data accordingly. (Reversing the previous steps to store on the NAND flash component.)
One thing that’s not supported on the Dell EMC R640 are the 24 1.8″ uSATA SSDs, which provide up to 23GB of storage on the R630. But now you can install up to eight NVMe drives—twice as many as were supported on the R630. There’s also a 10-bay 2.5″ drive version, and a 4-bay 3.5″ drive bay chassis that supports up to 40TB using 10TB SAS or SATA HDDs or SSDs. The other drive bay configurations also support SAS and SATA HDDs and SSDs.
Also new on this system, is a rear-mounted drive cage that can support two additional 2.5″ SAS or SATA HDDs or SSDs, or NVMe SSDs to the tune of 12TB. The 10-bay SFF drive version supports a massive 58TB of storage! In a nut shell, the new R640 delivers more than twice the stated maximum storage capacity compared to the R630.
And powering all that storage goodness is either a 495W, 750W, 1100W, or 1600W power supply.
The way it’s set up right now it can support either 8 NVMe drives or up to 12 2.5″ SAS or SATA SSDs or HDDs with the optional rear-mounted drive carrier. The backplane has 10 hot-swap drive bay connections and connects to an expander board with SAS cables running to the PERC H740P and PCIe cables connecting directly to the system board.
With this configuration, the expander board automatically recognizes drive types, and connects to either the PERC H740P HD controller for SAS SATA or to the PCIe lanes through direct connections to the motherboard located behind the redundant power supplies for NVMe. The optional rear drive cage has a similar configuration to support all drive types including NVMe with a PCIe expansion card installed in expansion slot 1.
Or, if you go with SAS or SATA, you can route the cables to the expander board, which in turn will access the onboard PERC.
There’s also a Boot Optimized Storage Subsystem or BOSS that has one or two Boot-Class M.2 storage devices that can be used to support the operating system in failsafe mode with both M.2s installed. The BOSS can also be used in Pass-thru mode or as two devices in a hardware RAID for additional storage.
An optional internal USB 3.0 memory key can be installed in the internal USB 3.0 port and can also be used to boot the system, as a security key, or for additional storage. Using the BOSS device is a great way to preserve your up-front storage devices for storage intensive applications but if one fails, the only way to replace it is to shut the system down and remove the cover… Another boot alternative would be with the optional rear-mounted 2.5″ hot swap drive carrier.
Up to three expansion slots are available depending on your choice between four different expansion card risers. A large variety of cards can be installed, including up to three NICs, a BOSS, an external storage controller, and or a single Nvidia NVS 310 GPU for graphics processing.
The Network Daughter card occupies a dedicated spot on the motherboard and allows you to choose from different network connectivity options.
The onboard H740P controller features 12 Gb/s access speeds for SAS and SATA and 8GB of NV Cache compared to just 2 GB on the previous generation H730P. The H730P is still a great budget performance option. The new H740P controller also features a new architecture with two high performance ARM A15 RAID-on-Chip processor cores to deliver significantly faster performance. For external storage support, the new PERC H840 controller supports up to 240 SAS HDDs or SSDs with 12Gb/s connectivity.
The PowerEdge R640 supports USB ports, NIC ports, VGA ports, serial connector, and an internal Dual SD card Module with vFlash card with an optional Flash memory card that can be used to store disk images for iDRAC.
The dual SD card module is installed in a proprietary PCIe x1 slot for failsafe hypervisor support when used with two SD cards. The R640 will support up to three additional PCIe add-on Network Interface Controller cards.
Dell’s new iDRAC 9 remote management controller delivers a bunch of new features, including the ability to update BIOS before the system is even turned on. Security has also been upgraded with the ability to reject firmware upgrades that are not cryptographically-signed. We got the system with the security bezel, but there’s also an optional bezel with an integrated LCD display panel.
An optional trusted platform module is installed on this system and helps with securing access to the data by integrating cryptographic keys into devices, which can then be used by software to authenticate the hardware device. And there are more security features where that came from. A Lockdown mode prevents unauthorized or malicious system configuration changes. Secure Erase is another great feature used for redeployment or retirement. It allows you to remove every last vestige of data from your storage devices.
By using the optional BlueTooth enabled QuickSync 2.0 along with the OpenManage Mobile App you can quickly access server status, trouble shoot, and review server logs, right at the chassis using a smart phone or tablet. QuickSync has also been integrated with the server ear, a departure from the previous version which was integrated with the bezel and used near Field Communications. In other words, Dell’s management tools, which were good before, are now even better. Left and right control panels also provide administrators with system status at the chassis.
The Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 server is an excellent option if you need a small form factor with some impressive performance credentials. It supports both NVMe drives and NVDIMMs for faster performance and resiliency with enhanced IO provided by a flexible NDC and the potential for up to three additional NICs. Dell’s management tools have also steadily improved with additional features to help you manage the system more effectively while spending less time on maintenance with automation.
Click here for pricing and documentation on the Dell EMC PowerEdge R640 Rack Server, and if you have any comments or questions post them in the section below or give us a call at (800) 237-0402.