Dell EMC’s latest entry-level rack server claims to offer a good mix of features, performance and value and targets a wide range of usage scenarios including small businesses plus remote or branch offices. The PowerEdge R340 looks to pack a lot into its slim-line 1U rack chassis as it brings Xeon E-2100 CPU power into the equation along with a surprising expansion potential.
Choice is king as Dell EMC actually offers two different 1U rack mount models with the budget-priced PowerEdge R240 restricted to four hot-swap drive bays and a fixed 350W power supply. The R340 offers more flexibility as its supports 4 LFF or 8 SFF hot-swap bays and dual redundant PSUs.
CPU options are extensive as you can cut costs and go for a Celeron G4900 or Pentium G5500 dual-core chip or a quad-core Core i3-8100. However, to maximise your investment, we recommend a Xeon E-2100 CPU as the quad-core 3.5GHz Xeon E-2134 in our review system only costs $234 more than the basic Celeron G4900 and is substantially more powerful.
Other benefits of Xeon E-2100 CPUs are their support for 64GB of fast 2,667MHz DDR4 memory. There will also be a future BIOS upgrade made available by all server vendors that adds support for 32GB ECC UDIMMs allowing maximum memory to be increased to 128GB.
Base systems start with the 4-bay LFF drive backplane cabled to the motherboard’s embedded four-port SATA connector. It uses the embedded PERC S140 controller which brings software-managed hot-swap mirrors, stripes and RAID5 arrays into play.
Next up is the 8-bay SFF chassis which still leaves enough room on the front panel for an optical drive. This is a the maximum number of drives supported so if you want 10 SFF drives you should consider 1U rack servers such as Lenovo’s ThinkSystem SR250 or Fujitsu’s Server Primergy RX1330 M4.
The price for our system includes a PERC H330 PCI-E RAID card which doesn’t improve your RAID prospects but does add support for 12Gbps SAS hard disks and SSDs. If you want to use features such as Microsoft’s Storage Spaces, another option is the HBA330 card which is a simple non-RAID controller that presents up to eight SAS3 channels.
A smart feature that saves storage bay wastage is Dell EMC’s BOSS (boot optimized storage solution) PCI-E card. This negates the need to place your OS on a hard disk as it supports dual mirrored M.2 SATA SSDs with the 240GB version costing around $550.
If you only want to run an embedded hypervisor and not a full OS, a cheaper alternative is Dell EMC’s internal dual SD module (IDSDM). It supports mirroring, has its own dedicated motherboard slot and costs $138 for a pair of 32GB cards
Room to grow
The R340 has a surprising amount of expansion space as the PERC H330 card sits in its own dedicated PCI-E slot on the side of the motherboard. This leaves both slots in the riser card above it available for future upgrades and Dell EMC offers a choice of dual and quad-port Gigabit or dual-port 10-Gigabit cards to complement the server’s two embedded Gigabit ports.
Internal design is nice and tidy with easy access afforded to all key components for upgrade and maintenance manoeuvres. The CPU is topped off with a small passive heatsink and the price we’ve shown includes a single 16GB stick of DDR4 leaving three DIMM slots free for more.
System cooling is handled by three cold-swap fans in front of the motherboard and a fourth over by the expansion slot riser. Overall noise levels are reasonably low with the SPLnFFT app on our iPad recording 44.2dB at one metre in front of the server.
The price includes a 350W hot-plug PSU which can be supported by a second redundant PSU. A spare bay is provided and along with 350W modules, Dell EMC offers high-power 550W Platinum versions as well.
Class management act
The R340 delivers enterprise-class remote management as it is blessed with the same embedded iDRAC9 controller as Dell EMC’s high-end servers. It presents a classy HTML5 web interface offering a detailed status overview along with plenty of operational data on system and component temperatures, cooling and voltages.
It provides a full system inventory, multiple performance graphs and direct access to the PERC RAID controllers for storage configuration. It also has a sharp focus on platform security as a System Lockdown mode stops users making any configuration changes while supply chain integrity is assured with cryptographically signed firmware packages.
Businesses with distributed servers will find Dell EMC’s OpenManage Enterprise very useful. We run v3.1 in the lab as a Hyper-V VM and after discovering the R340, it presented plenty of details on general operations along with fault alerting services, inventory and remote power controls.
Our only disappointment is the R340 doesn’t support the Quick Sync 2 Bluetooth module for walk-up access. All was not lost though, as we could still enter the IP address of the iDRAC9 module into the OMM (OpenManage Mobile) app on our iPad and remotely monitor and troubleshoot the R340.
The PowerEdge R340 is ideally suited to budget-conscious SMEs looking for their first rack server or to upgrade existing systems to cope with their expanding business apps. With prices starting at only $589, the entry-level PowerEdge R240 is a tempting proposition but businesses that want more redundancy and greater storage flexibility will find the R340 is the better bet.
For a 1U rack server, it offers a good expansion potential in many areas while the smart BOSS and IDSDM options make it even more versatile. The classy iDRAC9 remote server management controller simply won’t be beaten for features and neither can the R340 be faulted for performance and value.
- Very good value
- Xeon E-2100 processing
- The best remote management
- Great expansion potential
- Versatile storage features
- Quick Sync 2 module not supported