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Dell EMC PowerEdge T640 Review

Possibly the largest tower server on the planet, Dell EMC’s PowerEdge T640 looks capable of handling any workload a business can throw at it. This mighty floor-stander supports dual Intel Xeon Scalable CPUs, has a massive memory capacity of 3TB and offers a highly versatile range of storage features.

The T640 has room for up to 32 SFF drives up front – the same as the older T630 – but doubles the number of supported PCIe NVMe SSDs to eight. Dell EMC’s PERC controllers offer even more RAID capabilities while the new iDRAC9 chip delivers enhanced remote management features along with stiff platform and supply chain security.

Designed for businesses without a rack infrastructure, the T640 targets a wide range of applications including virtualization, server consolidation, big databases, ERP and HPC. It has plenty of room inside for future expansion with eight vacant PCIe slots and also supports Dell EMC’s microSD controllers and BOSS (boot optimized storage solution) card.

Storage bonanza

You can manage your entire Dell EMC infrastructure from the upcoming OpenManage Enterprise application

Storage is split between two bays at the front allowing you to start small and grow with demand. Dell offers models with 8 LFF bays with the option to increase the drive count to 16 in the tower configuration.

Choices abound for SFF drives as you can order the system with one 16-bay cage and add a second when required. Alternatively, the 16-bay SSF chassis can be partnered with a special cage above with room for eight NVMe SSDs which requires its backplane to be cabled to a pair of PCI-e bridge cards fitted in expansion slots 1 and 3.

For RAID, all systems start with the entry-level embedded PERC S140 chip which supports up to twelve SATA hard disks or SSDs plus software-managed stripes, mirrors and RAID5 arrays. To get SAS3 support, you’ll need to specify a PERC adapter card with the H740P model fitting in a dedicated PCIe slot at the top of the motherboard where it extends drive support to 32 and includes 8GB of battery protected NVRAM cache.

You can save on storage space with Dell EMC’s BOSS card which does away with the need to put the OS on a hard disk. This bootable PCIe card has dual M.2 SATA SSD slots, supports mirroring and costs around $516 with two 240GB sticks. Virtualization fans will like the dual-slot microSD card as this slips into a dedicated slot above the RAID card and provides hardware mirroring for hypervisor redundancy.

Build quality and design

Makes sure you order the Quick Sync 2 module for on-the spot monitoring from a mobile device

The T640 is superbly designed with an industrial-strength chassis that can be key-locked shut for extra physical security. It’s the same story inside as good internal design means all components are easily accessible for maintenance and upgrade tasks.

The motherboard is covered by a removable air shroud with the two Xeon Scalable sockets lurking behind it. The starter price gets you a single 1.7GHz Bronze 3104 6-core CPU but the T640 supports every Xeon Scalable model Intel has to offer so you can easily upgrade to Silver or Gold while those with deep pockets and big workloads can choose core-heavy Platinum CPUs.

Memory starts at a modest 8GB of DDR4 but with dual standard Xeon Scalable CPUs in residence, you can increase this to 1.5TB. If you want to expand to the full 3TB, you’ll need to specify Gold or Platinum CPUs with an ‘M’ SKU as these support 1.5TB of memory per socket.

Base systems are very quiet as they only require two chassis cooling fans mounted in the air shroud. For dual CPU systems and NVMe SSD storage, you’ll need the optional quad fan tray which slots in behind the drive bays although this does ramp up noise levels noticeably.

All models are ready for high-speed networking as they come as standard with an embedded dual 10GBase-T LOM (LAN on motherboard) controller. Power options are also extensive and range from 495W to 2,400W dual redundant PSUs which all share a common form factor.

Deploy and manage

The new iDRAC9 controller provides excellent remote server management and monitoring features

The server’s embedded iDRAC9 controller makes remote management a pleasure. It presents a slick 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. Dell EMC has a sharp focus on platform security as the iDRAC9 has a System Lockdown mode that stops users making any configuration changes while supply chain integrity is assured with cryptographically signed firmware packages.

We think the optional Quick Sync 2 module is a must-have feature for on-the-spot support and at only $87, is an absolute bargain. Pressing the button next to the system ID LED at the top of the front panel activated Bluetooth allowing us to connect our iPad directly to the server via the OpenManage Mobile (OMM) iOS app so we could check its vital signs.

For general systems management, the pensionable OpenManage Essentials is due to be succeeded by OpenManage Enterprise which is still in development. We run a Hyper-V VM of the latest technical release in the lab and after adding the server’s iDRAC9 details to its console, could view plenty of information on system status, automate routine maintenance tasks and remotely control its power. On its release, the software will be free for monitoring and firmware updates while a fee will be charged for configuration template management and deployment.

Conclusion

Look no further if your business wants a tower of power as the Dell EMC PowerEdge T640 offers everything you could possibly need. Designed to handle any workload, the T640 delivers a flexible and highly configurable storage package and teams it up with Xeon Scalable processing, a high memory capacity and classy remote management features.

8.5 Total Score

Look no further if your business wants a tower of power as the Dell EMC PowerEdge T640 offers everything you could possibly need. Designed to handle any workload, the T640 delivers a flexible and highly configurable storage package and teams it up with Xeon Scalable processing, a high memory capacity and classy remote management features.

Performance
10
Features
9.5
Build quality
9.5
Usability
9.5
Value
8
PROS
  • Excellent build quality
  • Dual Xeon Scalable CPUs
  • Maximum 3TB of memory
  • Versatile storage arrangement
  • Massive expansion potential
  • Top notch remote management
CONS
  • Dell EMC certified drives command a premium
  • Six fan package is quite noisy
User Rating: 4 (1 votes)

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