Opinions Wanted: Dell PowerEdge Servers ... ?

David Robillard david.robillard at gmail.com
Mon Jun 26 15:44:18 UTC 2006

> I'm currently weighing options ... my last two servers were HP Proliant,
> and I *really* like them, but I might have a line on a supplier in Panama
> that deals in Dell Servers and not HP ...
> Looking at Dell's web site, the PowerEdge has an optional "Remote Access
> Controller" that will it *sounds* like will give me similar functionality
> as HPs iLO ...
> But, I've heard bad things about their 'desktop offerings', and am not
> sure if that follows through to their "Servers" ...
> So, I'm kinda looking for both good, and bad, experiences with the
> PowerEdge stuff ... anyone with opinions?
> Thx ...

Hi Marc,

My experience with Dell hardware and support goes back to the year
2000. As a systems administrator, I can only speak for their server
products, not their desktop products.

The short story is: Stay away from Dell. Their hardware is of low
quality and poor construction. Their enterprise support is by far THE
lowest quality I've ever had to deal with. Light years away from Sun,
IBM or HP support.

The long story is that the machine's parts are of poor manufacturing.
They bend, break and snap if you're not very carefull in handling
them. The documentation that comes with the machines is far from

I've done a test by installing an IBM x346 sitting next to a Dell
PowerEdge 2850 and a Sun Fire X4200. You can clearly see that the IBM
and the Sun are of superior quality. All the parts are clearly
labeled, there is extensive maintenance documentation on the casing
and the parts are sturdy and solid. Compared to the Dell which has
flimsy bits of plastic hanging loose, internal cabling has to pass
over heat-sinks and fans and there is close to zero documentation on
the casing. Also, to remove the casing on the IBM and Sun machines,
you have well built latches which makes the whole thing "snap" into
place without any screws. While the Dell machine has an awkward metal
casing with sharp edges and requires three screws. All in all, working
with a Dell machine is a nightmare compared to working with IBM or Sun

That's on the low end machines. Dell does not offer high end machines
such as the Sun Fire E25K Server or the IBM eServer p5 595. Granted
that not everyone needs such big machines, but almost any corporation
will need more then 4 CPU machines one day, an area in which Dell is
not present. Therefore, you're forced to change hardware when you need
to scale up.

That's for the hardware. Now, let's talk support.

In several years, I've had to place numerous support calls to IBM,
Sun, HP, Veritas, Hitachi, EMC and Brocade. In all of them, the call
was handled by a single phone call, my problem was quickly found and
either a person, a part or a patch was sent or advised to fix it. At
Dell, I often had to make two, three and even four different calls to
talk to someone. One time, that someone didn't even know we had a
support contract. Worse, the phone number on the support contract was
invalid! More often then not, the Dell techs are not properly trained
on the hardware and have close to zero knowledge of actual systems

Of course, our IT staff was not happy with the quality of support from
Dell (or lack of..) So we had Dell's Head of Canadian Support in to
discuss this. His suggestion was that we pay more for the platinum
support. It's pathetic, really.

In the end you get what you pay for. Dell is cheaper of course. But
when you add up the downtime caused by broken parts, the time you lose
answering "is the server powered-on" dump support questions and the
poor reliability you get out of Dell machines, the ROI is not as nice
as it looked compared to Sun, IBM or HP.

Finally, the HP iLO you appreciate is also present in the IBM and Sun
machines with a lot more features then Dell's.

Of course, YMMV. But IMHO, if you're planning on doing serious work in
an enterprise, stay clear of Dell and go for Sun, IBM or HP.


David Robillard
UNIX systems administrator & Oracle DBA
CISSP, RHCE, Sun Certified Security & Systems Administrator
Montreal: +1 514 966 0122

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