Aimed at applications such as high density computing or thin client environments, the PowerEdge 1750 is one of a pair of new slim-line rack servers from Dell. It delivers a good specification for the price, combining this with particularly good management facilities.
Build quality of this 1U rack chassis is up to Dell's usual high standards. The front panel is home to three hot-swap drive bays and Dell has also found room for a 24X IDE CD-ROM and floppy drive and even monitor and mouse/keyboard ports have been conveniently duplicated on the front panel. If you use these, the rear ports will be automatically disabled. Storage options are more limited as, unlike the budget-priced PowerEdge 750, Serial ATA (SATA) isn't on the menu so you're limited to SCSI. However, a bonus is that the price of the review system includes Dell's optional PERC 4/Di RAID controller.
The method of access to the server's internals is unusual: the top panel of the 1750 is split into two separate sections. The larger of the two swings up to provide full access to the motherboard whilst the smaller flips back to reveal a pair of easily removable hot-plug power supplies. The only drawback of this design is the amount of clearance required above the server, which means it will have to withdrawn entirely from the rack to allow the panels to be opened. Internal design is very tidy and access to all major components is unimpeded.
The single 3.2GHz Xeon DP processor includes 1MB of L3 cache and there's room for a second module alongside. Four DIMM sockets are located further back and the ServerWorks GC-LE allows the resident 1GB of PC2100 SDRAM to be upgraded to 8GB. Cooling is handled well by a bank of five small, variable speed fans stretched across the centre of the chassis although we found operational noise levels higher than average for a 1U system.
The RAID controller is a separate board that plugs into the motherboard just behind the hard disk bays, where it takes over the embedded LSI Logic Ultra320 SCSI chipset to provide support for RAID0, 1, and 5 arrays. The RAID controller comes with a healthy 128MB of cache memory and the small battery backup pack sits on top where it can be easily replaced. One SCSI channel is linked to the hot-swap backplane, while the second has been thoughtfully routed to the rear panel where external devices can be attached. The network connection is well-endowed with a pair of Broadcom NetXtreme Gigabit adapters, which can be linked together into fault-tolerant or load balanced links. There's room to expand and a central riser card offers two half-length PCI slots. These are the 133MHz PCI-X variety.
Alongside the PCI riser is Dell's embedded remote access option (ERA/O) which comprises a single plug-in board. With this in place the extra 10/100BaseTX Ethernet port at the rear provides remote access via a browser. We weren't impressed with its sluggish responses but the tidy interface allows you to keep an eye on all key components, temperature and voltages, while full access to power controls allows you to remotely power up, power down or restart the server.
For general server management you get Dell's OpenManage software suite consisting of three main components that are all easily installed. Server Administrator looks after local server health and allows you to monitor critical areas such as processors, memory and storage, modify the server's BIOS or download new firmware. Set thresholds for fan speeds, voltages, temperatures and power and you can link errors to a wide range of alerts including network broadcast, running an application and sending an e-mail. Dell's IT Assistant provides a larger management umbrella as it can configure, manage and monitor all manner of Dell systems including PCs, workstations and laptops that have the agent software installed. The Array Manager utility rounds the management picture off nicely by looking after the RAID controller and attached storage and this MMC (Microsoft management console) snap-in can monitor and configure local and remote systems.
Dell's mid-range rack servers have always delivered a good range of features for the price, along with decent management facilities. However, storage capacity is comparatively limited by only having room for three drives so if you want more we suggest checking out Supermicro's rack server portfolio.