Review: Dell’s slim FC830 server packs a heavyweight punch

The latest Dell FX2 server module stuffs a massive amount of computing power into a 1U space

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Dell introduced the PowerEdge FX2 platform late in 2014 as its flagship entry into the converged infrastructure hardware market. With slots for up to four half-wide 1U server modules or two full-width modules, you could use the 2U FX2 enclosure to implement a heavy-duty virtualization cluster and/or software-defined storage solutions such as VMware Virtual SAN and Windows Server Storage Spaces. The PowerEdge FC830 FX server block is the latest addition to the FX2 family, packing four sockets of computing power and up to 1.5TB of memory into a full-width 1U module.

The FC830 module I received for review came with four Intel Xeon E5-4650 v3 processors and 192GB of memory. With a total of 48 memory slots, you could go up to 1.5TB using 32GB DIMMs. The FX2 chassis that houses the FC830 provides eight shared PCIe slots. Chassis network connectivity consists of two 10GB SFP modules, each with a total of eight ports. The FC830 came with four internal 10GB ports for a total bandwidth capacity of 40GB.

Price for my FC830 system as configured is $34,755. This includes the price of Windows Server 2012 R2 Datacenter edition to cover the four sockets. It’s not cheap, but it offers a remarkable combination of high horsepower and high density.

FC830 configuration options

The beauty of the FX2 platform lies in the versatility and flexibility provided by the wide range of configuration options. About the only downside is deciding which components to choose in order to best accommodate specific workloads. The PowerEdge FC830 is a compute building block that allows you to start with two CPUs and later upgrade to four if needed. Processor options start with the Xeon E5-4650 v3, which I tested, and go up to the E5-4669 v3. Expect to pay premium prices for these brand-new Intel processors.

On the memory front, the options include ECC, ECC plus sparing, and performance optimized plus sparing. (Sparing sets aside some memory to protect against memory failure.) Dell also offers fault-resilient memory for VMware and memory mirroring. (Memory mirroring provides even greater protection against memory errors than ECC and sparing, but at the cost of a reduced amount of usable memory.) Choosing the right memory configuration could require quite a bit of time and effort to consider the trade-offs between the different options versus cost.

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