Deep Dive Into Dell's PowerEdge FX2 Server: Did Someone Just Reinvent The Blade?

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Since going private, Dell has been moving at lightning speed to redefine itself as a one-stop shop for enterprise IT solutions. It's an effort that has catapulted the Round Rock, Texas-based company into the data center vanguard. On the front lines of Dell’s server offensive is its PowerEdge FX2, which represents an entire new modular blade server architecture -- unique to Dell -- delivering a converged infrastructure, density and efficiency all within a 2U rack form factor.

Dell partners call the FX2 a radical departure from the usual blade server suspects, delivering a highly modular server that can be easily customized for specific workloads. Dell's new FX2 chassis can blend compute, networking and storage all within a svelte chassis.

"It's a blade server that reinvents the blade," said Scott Winslow, president of Winslow Technology Group, a Boston-based solution provider and Dell partner. The FX2 is the most versatile and modular multinode platform in Dell's product line, according to Winslow. "The FX2 is a cost-effective solution that allows my customers to grow in bite-sized increments all while delivering benefits of blade in a traditional rack form factor," he said.

[Related: Dell, HP, Cisco Look Beyond The Traditional Blade/Rack Server]

With FX2, customers can adopt a building-block approach to their infrastructure. The chassis can be filled with a choice of sled modules each optimized for just about anything users want to throw at it: Web hosting, virtualization, direct-attached storage or running databases.

"FX2 represents a new style of infrastructure where an application isn't tied to one line of business," said Ravi Pendekanti, vice president, Dell Server Solutions. "The FX2 platform allows you to have different workloads on a common infrastructure with the same look and feel and manageability."

The FX2 Lineup

Dell unveiled the FX2 platform in November, billing it as a new line of attack for its PowerEdge server family and its converged infrastructure strategy. Since then, Dell has rolled out concurrent FX2 SKUs including PowerEdge models that give customers a la carte compute options ranging from full-width, half-width and quarter-width modules. It's that type of customization, according to Winslow, that allows customers to dial up and down performance and density based on an application's demand and business demand. 

"From a technology perspective, FX2 is a winner," Winslow said. "From a sales perspective, it's a win-win." The 2U form factor gives the FX2 a lower initial capital acquisition cost, minimizes risk and fuels faster time to market, he added.

Dell first rolled out the FX2 FC630, which starts at $3,740 with a base configuration of a single Intel Xeon E5-2603 v3 processor and 4 GB of memory. Then Dell rolled out the PowerEdge FM120, which includes four separate Atom-based microservers in a single module delivering a super-dense server configuration.

Later Dell introduced the FC430 along with the FD332 storage sled that can hold up to 16 drives per module. When paired with four FC430 quarter-width nodes (each of which is a two-socket Xeon server) the combined solution delivers a whopping 80 server nodes per rack.

More recently Dell introduced the FC830, which is a four-socket full-width node for compute-intensive workloads. This product is based on the newest Intel Xeon E5-4600 v3 processor with from four to 18 cores per CPU.

Here is a snapshot of the FX2 product family pricing:

FC630 sled: $3,740

FC630 sled plus FX2 chassis: $5,120 (FX2 chassis for up to four half-width nodes)

FC830 sled: $8,300 (2X Intel Xeon E7-4610 v3 processors and 2X 4 GB memory)

FC830 sled plus FX2 Chassis: $10,150 (FX2 chassis for up to two full-width nodes)

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