Dell EMC PowerEdge R740XD Server Review

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740XD Server Review

July 31, 2018 0 By Doug Stuman

This is a technical overview of the new and improved Gen14 version of one of Dell’s most popular workhorse servers, the Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd. This is one of Dell EMC’s most popular chassis configurations for its performance and scalability. It features a 2U, 2-socket chassis, but packs more storage, memory, and NVMe options than the PowerEdge R740.

The PowerEdge R740xd server can adapt to a variety of workloads including software-defined storage, use as a big data server, data analytics, and as a data tier for service providers. What’s new on the system? Support for up to 24 NVMe storage devices, support for up to six GPUs, enhanced security, improved management with iDRAC 9.0 with lifecycle controller, and the new Intel Xeon Scalable processors delivering 27% more cores and a 50% increase in bandwidth over the previous generation Xeon processors. We also got one of the cool new locking honeycomb bezels that have an integrated insight display screen so you don’t have to remove the bezel for system status.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server

You can load either one or two of Intel’s Xeon Scalable family of processors from Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum; but given the performance capabilities and intended workload, I can imagine that most will opt for performance processors in the Gold or Platinum category to take advantage of the high core count, processor speed, memory, and storage support.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Supported Intel Scalable Processors

The Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd supports DDR4 memory modules including Registered DIMM modules, Load Reduced DIMM modules and Non-Volatile DIMM-N modules with memory speeds of up to 2666MHz. Storage options include SAS, SATA, Nearline SAS, and NVMe drives for super fast storage.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Memory

And, there are quite a few storage configurations on this system, starting with the base configuration of the front accessible drives that support either 12x 3.5″ SAS, SATA or Nearline SAS drives. A 24-bay system that supports 2.5″ SAS, SATA or Nearline SAS. And another 24-bay chassis that supports up to 24 2.5″ NVMe drives, and another that features 12 SSDs or HDDs on the left and 12 NVMe drives on the right.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Storage Configurations – Front Bays

Depending on the base configuration, you can add even more storage with an optional internal mid-tray storage bracket that straddles the processors.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Storage Configurations – Mid Bays

The mid-tray can be outfitted with either four 2.5″ or four 3.5″ SSDs or HDDs or a mix of the two. Another optional mid-tray can accommodate up to three 2.5″ or 3.5″ drives plus an NVMe storage device and an optional NVDIMM battery to support the NVDIMM-N modules. The battery can be installed on the regular air shroud and the 3.5″ mid tray storage bracket, but not the 2.5″ mid-tray. Keep in mind, if for whatever reason you want to use 2.5″ drives and need the capacitor for NVDIMMs you can go with the 3.5″ mid-tray storage and use some 3.5″ drive adapters for the 2.5″ drives.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Storage Configurations – Mid Bay

There are even more options for storage with rear-mounted drive carriers that come in two flavors to support either two 3.5″ drives or four 2.5″ HDDs or SSDs.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Storage Configurations – Rear Bay (3.5″ HDs)

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Storage Configurations – Rear Bay (2.5″ HDs)

This particular system we have today features dual Scalable 6130 Gold processors which have 16 cores each and 22MB of L3 cache. The main difference between the two different types of Gold processors is the Ultra Path Interconnect or UPI. The 6130 Gold processors in this system have 3 UPI channels, other processors in the Gold family may have only two. And with all the non-volatile storage and memory options available on the R740xd, that extra UPI channel means significantly more throughput for performance applications.

This CPU also supports memory speeds of up to 2666MHz, which is essential to take advantage of the top memory speeds offered by top-tier memory modules. The R740xd will support a maximum of 3TB of memory using 128GB memory modules when paired with certain Gold and Platinum Scalable processors.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Memory

Six memory channels are allocated to each processor and support two memory modules in each channel.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Memory Channels

For optimal memory performance in a two-processor configuration, twelve memory modules are distributed evenly between the processors and are populated in the white slots only. If mixing memory modules of different capacities, Dell recommends installing the higher capacity memory modules in the white slots and the lower capacity modules in the black slots. With the two Scalable Gold 6130 processors in our configuration here, we have 12 16GB DDR4 Registered DIMM modules in the white slots, a configuration recommended by Dell for performance applications.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Recommended Configuration

A minimum of one or a maximum of 12 NVDIMM-N modules can be installed in the system but must be paired with a minimum of 12 RDIMM modules. In addition, NVDIMM modules can only be installed in a two processor configuration.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Memory Modules

You may be asking yourself at this point, how do the NVDIMM-N modules work? In a nutshell, it has a combination of DDR4 DRAM paired with a NAND Flash component.

NVDIMM-N Modules Explained

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.

NVDIMM-N Modules Explained

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 12 RDIMM modules.

NVDIMM-N Modules Explained

This system has six 300GB SAS 12Gb/s 15K 2.5″ HDs distributed throughout the chassis, with two in front, two in the mid tray,  and two 2.5-inch drives in the rear 2.5-inch drive carrier. Both of which have their own hot swap backplane.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Storage Configuration

A PERC H730P HD RAID controller supports up to 255 SAS HDDs or SSDs at 3Gb/s, 6Gb/s, or 12Gb/s or SATA HDDs or SSDs, along with 2GB of non-volatile cache memory powered by an integrated battery pack. It’s a low-cost performance option originally designed for the Gen13 Dell servers and provides enhanced I/O for applications in the database and streaming digital media environments.

PERC H730P HD RAID Controller

Of course, Dell also created a new and improved PERC H740p HD RAID controller that offers more cache at 4GB or up to 8GB with a firmware update. Also supported, is a brand new 12Gb/s HBA and an H840P external RAID controller that can support up to 255 drives. The new and improved integrated S140 internal storage controller offers Software RAID.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Rear View

The backplane for the front mounted drives on this system is designed to support up to 12 standard HDDs or SSDs on the left, and up to 12 NVMe storage devices on the right. NVMe storage devices are designed for low latency and high I/O operations per second.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server NVMe Option

There are six PCIe HD connectors on one side of the front backplane that each control two NVMe drives.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server NVMe Connectors

Cables run from the PCIe connectors on the backplane and connect to a PCIe card in one of the expansion slots. NVMe drives support orderly hot swap removal, meaning you need to notify the system first that the device is about to be removed prior to removing the drive. NAND SSDs also have a finite number of program-erase cycles that are monitored by the Dell software management applications, which will notify you when these limits are reached.

PCIe Expander Card

An optional Boot Optimized Storage System, or BOSS, is a PCIe card with up to two M.2 storage devices (BOSS includes options that support capacities of 120GB or 240GB). If you need all your front mounted, mid tray and rear mounted drives, it can support the OS with hardware RAID ensuring failsafe OS protection.

Boot Optimized Storage System PCIe Card

Same with an optional internal Dual SD Card Module with vFlash. It sits in a proprietary slot on the motherboard and features three SD cards total, two for failsafe hypervisor support and an additional card for that can provide failsafe hypervisor support with two SD used in mirror mode.

Internal Dual SD Card Module With vFlash

Internal Dual SD Card Module With vFlash

Just about everybody has a smartphone, unless you’ve been living under a rock, and Dell has taken advantage of that with the iDRAC QuickSync 2 module, which works in conjunction with the OpenManage Mobile app.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server iDRAC QuickSync 2

Previously, on the Dell Gen13 servers, QuickSync was integrated into the QuickSync Bezel and communicated with iDRAC through an NFC capable Android mobile device or tablet, but it only worked with Android devices.

Dell Gen13 Server QuickSync Bezel

QuickSync 2 has been completely redesigned and works with both Android and iOS devices using Bluetooth/Wi-Fi. iDRAC quick sync 2 with OpenManage mobile enables administrators to securely and wirelessly manage the system on site including, deploying bare metal servers, updating, monitoring, and troubleshooting.

Dell Gen14 Servers QuickSync App

OpenManage Essentials, the one-to-many console can also be accessed directly at the server via a PC or again using a mobile device outfitted with the OpenManage Mobile app. QuickSync 2 is now integrated into the rack ear so you don’t need to purchase the bezel, but the new bezel does look pretty cool. OpenManage also grants access to Dell’s Remote Access Controller Console for quick remote or local access to the system through the command line or from a standard web browser. The Remote Access Controller Console allows you to review server details, check logs and health status, configure IP/BIOS, and remediate potential problems with the system.

Dell Gen14 Server iDRAC Remote Connection

Security has been updated with a Cyber resilient architecture that’s integrated into the hardware and firmware covering the lifecycle of the server from start to finish. Some of the features include, component protection for the factory to the data center, cryptographically signed firmware, secure boot, server lockdown to prevent changes to the firmware, and secure erase to more quickly and completely erase data from all storage and memory devices on the system.

There are up to eight expansion slots on the server with the addition of three separate risers. Of course, if you have additional storage cages mounted in back, like on our chassis here, then only three PCIe slots are available because the drive cage occupies both the #2 and #3 riser slot positions.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Top View

The network daughter card included with this system features four ports total, two 10Gb/s, and two 1Gb/s ports. With network communications handled through the NDC, you have choices for more ports at faster connection speeds. You can install up to eight PCIe add-on NIC cards for some very impressive throughput but it really depends on your workload.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server Rear Ports

The system will also support up to six single width GPUs or three double-width GPUs, with two processors installed. And then there’s the mass storage option which will take away more than half of those PCIe slots.

Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd Rack Server GPUs

The PowerEdge R740XD is really an impressive piece of equipment with a high-density architecture that’s just filled with the potential to support just about anything. The potential for massive throughput ensures you can take advantage of the supported NVMe drives, and NVDIMMs. Even without the non-volatile storage and memory options, this system has a very impressive set of features and you can pack in a whole lot of storage in this 2U case.

Click this link for pricing and documentation on Dell EMC PowerEdge R740xd 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.