posted on May 11, 2021
Businesses shopping for rack servers have fewer vendors to choose from than in years past, as market consolidation and acquisitions have left a rack server industry dominated by the few. Web hosting companies also choose the best possible servers for their business.
The top three providers remain Dell EMC, HPE, and IBM, accounting for almost 43% of the server vendor market, according to Gartner. Vendors competing for a seat at the table include Lenovo, Huawei, and Inspur, while Cisco, Fujitsu, and Oracle continue to produce unique, high-performance machines. We look at the top rack servers available today, whether you need a general-purpose server or one for data-intensive applications, followed by an overview of the rack server market and what buyers should look for in a rack server.
Top Rack Servers
Cisco UCS C240 M6
The newest addition to the Cisco Unified Computing System (UCS) C-Series servers is the 3rd Gen AMD EPYC processor. The Cisco C240 M6 includes 32 DIMM slots, 8TB of capacity, RAID control, and an internal dual M.2 drive option.
The C240 M6 is a two-socket, 2RU form factor and goes further than its predecessor in offering high-performance computing. This upgrade includes additional ranges of DDR4 DIMMs capacity, eight PCIe 4.0 slots, 28 storage interface slots, up to 960GB for M.2 boot options, and support for up to five GPUs. It’s worth noting that the fourth and most recent generation of PCI express is twice as fast as PCIe 3.0, with a data rate of 16 GT/s.
This server is fit for an array of tasks including storage, I/O intensive applications, and high-performance computing. For small organizations, consider the C225. For anything more, your best bet will be the C240 M6.
Dell EMC PowerEdge R750
The Dell EMC PowerEdge R750 sits atop the suite of Dell EMC PowerEdge rack servers, offering up to 24 NVMe drives and eight PCIe 4.0 slots for throughput. Specs include two 3rd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable Processors that total 80 processors. For memory, the PowerEdge R750 carries 32 DIMM slots, up to 8TB of capacity, and can take six different disk types.
Designed to manage demanding workloads ranging from database analytics to AI, virtualization, and machine learning, the PowerEdge R750 provides excellent performance for a general-purpose server. According to Dell EMC, this server is “the optimal rack server to address application performance and acceleration.”
Fujitsu PRIMERGY RX4770 M5
With long-time partner Sun Microsystems, Fujitsu continues to make moves in the server market, including unveiling Solaris-compatible UltraSparc chips in September 2020. For now, Fujitsu’s PRIMERGY server lineup offers the latest generation of Intel Xeon processors.
The Fujitsu PRIMERGY RX4770 M6 is a 2U, quad-socket server using 3rd Gen Intel Xeon processors. Providing 28 cores per socket and 12 DIMM slots per CPU, this server can hold up to 15 TB in memory. The RX4770 is flexible, with twelve operating systems to choose from and a 3-year warranty. Storage disk allotments include 16 general slots for up to 6 NVMe adapters and 8 PCIe 3.0 slots. Solaris as an operating system continues to gain steam as the only enterprise-class Unix system available for x86.
Organizations seeking a scalable and expandable server solution won’t be disappointed in the Fujitsu RX4770.
HPE Proliant DL380 Gen10
The HPE Proliant DL380 has long been a popular server in the market, offering reliability, performance, and a wealth of features for a reasonable cost. In its newest iteration, the DL380 Gen10 continues to meet SMB needs with better processors, more memory, NVMe ports, and more robust networking. Notable improvements include the addition of two 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors that upped performance by 60% and 27% in cores.
The 2U rack server functions well for databases, analytics, and mission-critical applications, but loses out to some more expensive models on high-end features. That said it comes with enough reliability, serviceability, availability, GPU options, and Windows Server support to make it a good choice for general-purpose servers in the enterprise.
Huawei FusionServer Pro 2288H V5
Established in 1987, China-based tech giant Huawei has experienced accelerating growth over the years, including a sturdy position in the rack server market. The FusionServer Pro 2288H V5 is a flexible, 2U, 2-socket server that’s suited for an array of workloads. From big data processing to databases and cloud computing, this server is suited to contemporary tasks and cuts power consumption up to 15% without a change in performance.
Where the FusionServer Pro 2288H V5 truly stands out is its availability to NVM express drives. Tied with Cisco C240, both servers offer up to 28 NVMe drives. With 12 Intel Optane persistent memory modules, the 2288H V5 can achieve up to 7.5 TB in-memory capacity and offers 10 PCIe 3.0 slots.
IBM Power System S922
The IBM Power System S922 is quite different from almost all the other racks in this guide in that it is one of two without an x86 processor from AMD or Intel. The IBM homegrown POWER9 processor adds to the initial cost but is worth it for organizations that need a resilient, cloud-enabled server. These servers offer top-notch processing power and up to 4TB of memory, easing cloud applications, analytics, and other demanding workloads.
The Power System S922 also includes fifteen PCIe 4.0 slots and two U.2 modules slots for expansion capabilities. The list of embedded features includes the PowerVM hypervisor. In line with its cloud-optimized focus, the PowerVM can consolidate and plan workloads that result in reduced overhead costs.
Inspur was one of the first organizations to manufacture servers in China. As of late 2020, the company is just short of Dell EMC and HPE in global revenue for the broader server market.
We look at our first 4U server via the Inspur NF8480 M6. This four-socket module is fit for high-performance computing such as AI and deep learning inference and offers a whopping 50 slots for SAS, SATA, and NVMe drives. With 19 slots for PCIe 3.0 drives, this server is only second to Dell EMC’s E980. With the addition of 24 Intel Optane Persistent Memory 200 series, the total memory capacity is 7.5 TB.
The Inspur NF8480 M6 is a highly scalable solution and flexible for administrators who need full-height and half-height options for I/O balance and expansion.
Lenovo ThinkSystem SR630
If you are looking for a higher-end server with up to 7.5TB memory and 123TB storage capacity, the Lenovo ThinkSystem SR630 is hard to beat. It scored very well in benchmark tests for single-threaded compute-intensive applications and is well-regarded for most large enterprises.
Featuring the latest Intel Xeon processors, it comes with flexible I/O expansion options, four PCIe 4.0 slots, and four NVMe ports. It is also able to cope with harsh environments and keeps energy costs low relative to the amount of raw compute power it unleashes. With the Lenovo XClarity Controller and Administrator, the user experience only keeps improving for server managers.
Oracle Server X8-2
The Oracle Server X8 series is the newest industry line of x86 servers for middleware and application workloads. The Oracle Server X8-2 specifically is a compact, 1U module that allows up to 64TB of memory and 51.2TB of storage. For Oracle users, the X8-2 is a no-brainer as it interoperates with the wide range of Oracle hardware and software packages.
Unlike its predecessor, Oracle Server X7-2, which used 1st Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors, the X8-2 is based on the Platinum or Gold 2nd Gen Intel Xeon Scalable processors. This upgrade means being able to execute in-silicon patches for Spectre and Meltdown vulnerabilities whereas prior generations required microcode patches.
Dell EMC PowerEdge R840
The PowerEdge R840 is the second four-socket rack server to make the list and is a big upgrade over the previous generation from Dell. Its small footprint includes up to four 2nd Gen Intel Xeon processors, 24 NVMe drives, and can also support two GPUs to accelerate workloads. Impressively, it comes with the second most memory offered in this rack server guide, with up to 6TB in capacity, and expanded to over 15TB capacity when using DC persistent memory and load reduction DIMM (LRDIMM).
If you are looking for an entry-level server, this is not it. But for more sophisticated workloads or a powerhouse server that can host multiple virtualized applications, this is a strong candidate.
HPE Proliant DL325 Gen10
The HPE Proliant DL325 Gen10 is a general-purpose server that packs more into a single socket than most 2-processor servers can manage. Notably, the Gen10 offers 2x the performance of the prior generation. For organizations that demand an enterprise-class processor without purchasing a dual processor, this might be for you.
The DL325 is a 2nd Gen AMD EYPC-based platform with enough security included to suit enterprise needs. It has plenty of memory in the form of 64 GB RDIMMs, supporting up to 2TB of memory. It boasts a low power consumption profile and power-packed chassis along with 8 NVMe drives, two PCIe 3.0 slots, and networking options.
IBM Power System E980
For our second IBM pick, the Power System E980 is a mammoth of a server for a 4U, quad-socket module. Ideal for large-scale, mission-critical applications, this server comes with a solid list of reliability, availability, and serviceability features.
With the use of four POWER9 processors, the Power System E980 can manage up to 48 cores per socket and 64 TB in memory. Though the server only offers 16 slots for NVMe, the E980 tops our list in PCIe 4.0 with 32 slots for optimized interconnection between system components.
The Power System E980 also provides easy to execute consolidation of under-utilized servers by sharing POWER9 processor resources. All said, the E980 is a good solution for enterprises working heavily with AIX, IBM i, and Linux applications.
Oracle SPARC T8-1
We can’t finish our list of top rack servers without mentioning the SPARC M8 processor, which just a few years ago set a world record for Java enterprise performance. All in a condensed 1U, single-socket server, the Oracle SPARC T8-1 is an excellent general-purpose machine and is reportedly 2x faster than competitor systems for Java software, databases, and applications.
Built for enterprise workloads, the SPARC T8-1 contains 16 DIMMs and can hold a maximum memory of 6.4 TB with NVDIMM capabilities. With only 8 insertable drives–only 4 of which can be NVMe–and 6 PCIe 3.0 ports, the server can store up to 25.6 TB. For organizations using Oracle software, adopting the T8-1 for its integration is a worthwhile consideration. Additional software like Oracle VM comes built-in to aid virtualization.