Dell M910 Blade Server Achieves #1 VMmark Score

The VMware VMmark web site was recently updated to show Dell’s PowerEdge M910 blade server in the #1 slot (for blades) in the 16 core space. I think the PowerEdge M910 is very intriguing, so I thought I’d spend some time highlighting the features. Before I begin, let me explain what the VMmark testing is about.   VMmark enables equipment manufacturers, software vendors, system integrators and other organizations to:

  • Measure virtual machine performance accurately and reliably
  • Determine the performance of different hardware and virtualization platforms
  • Make appropriate hardware decisions for your virtual infrastructure

VMware developed VMmark as a standard methodology for comparing virtualized systems. According to VMware’s VMmark website, the benchmark system in VMmark is comprised of a series of “sub-tests” that are derived from commonly used load-generation tools, as well as from benchmarks developed by the Standard Performance Evaluation Corporation (SPEC®). In parallel to VMmark, VMware is a member of the SPEC Virtualization subcommittee and is working with other SPEC members to create the next generation virtualization benchmark.

In testing the terms, a “tile” is simply a collection of virtual machines (VM’s) that are executing a set of diverse workloads designed to represent a natural work environment.   The total number of tiles that a server can handle provides a detailed measurement of that server’s consolidation capacity.  The more tiles, the better.  The faster the performance, the better.

Top 3 VMmark Results for 16 Core Blade Servers (as of 8/5/2010)click on the link to open the details

 #1 – Dell PowerEdge M910 (2 Sockets, 16 cores;  Intel Xeon X7560 CPU) running VMware ESX v4.0 –37.11@26 tiles (published 7/13/2010)

#2 – Dell PowerEdge M905 (4 Sockets, 16 cores;  AMD Opteron 8393 SE) running VMware ESX v4.0 – 22.90@17 tiles (published 6/19/2009)

#3 – HP ProLiant BL685 G6 (Four Core AMD Opteron 8389) running VMware ESX v4.0 – 20.87@14 tiles (published 4/24/2009)

About the Dell PowerEdge M910 Blade Server
Some details about the server:
  • uses Intel Xeon 7500 or 6500 CPUs
  • has support for up to 512GB using 32 x 16 DIMMs
  • comes 4 Ethernet ports via two embedded Broadcom NetExtreme II Dual Port 5709S Gigabit Ethernet NICs with failover and load balancing.
  • has two 2.5″ Hot-Swappable SAS/Solid State Drives
  • 4 available I/O mezzanine card slots
  • comes with a Matrox G200eW w/ 8MB memory standard
  • can function on 2 CPUs with access to all 32 DIMM slots

One important note is that Dell has 4 I/O mezzanine cards.  This is very important to understand, so let’s take a look at the Dell M1000e Chassis’ I/O Mapping.
 Dell M1000e I-O Mapping
YES – this looks complex, but it’s not.  Here’s the breakdown by I/O Bay Module.  For the record, I have them labeled as “I/O Bay 1 – 6” however Dell uses “A1, A2, B1, B2 and C1, C2”.  They are the same – I just listed them numerically to make it easier to follow.
I/O Bays 1 and 2 
These I/O Bays are connected to the on-board Ethernet.  In the case of the M910, there are 4 Ethernet ports.
Dell M1000e I-O Bay 1 and 2
I/O Bays 3 and 4 
These I/O Bays are connected to Mezzanine Card Slots 1 and 3.  These can provide 4 ports per card if a QUAD port card is used – otherwise, only two ports would be used.
Dell M1000e I-O Bay 3 and 4
I/O Bays 5 and 6
These I/O Bays are connected to Mezzanine Card Slots 2 and 4.  These can provide 4 ports per card if a QUAD port card is used – otherwise, only two ports would be used.
Dell M1000e I-O Bay 5 and 6
From the design of the Dell M1000e Chassis, you can see that Dell’s M910 offers:
a) physically redundant card connections
b) Up to 20 ports of I/O
Let me give an real-world example of how Dell’s blade architecture can be very exciting.  Imagine you have a need for 12 Ethernet Adapters and 2 Fibre HBAs, however you want to have redundant, physical fibre HBAs.  You can do this with the M910 blade server:
4 Ethernet Ports on the motherboard
+ 4 Ethernet NICs (via a Quad Port Ethernet Adapter) on Mezzanine card 1
+ 2 Fibre HBA ports on Mezzanine card 2
+ 4 Ethernet NICs (via a Quad Port Ethernet Adapter) on Mezzanine card 3
+ 2 Fibre HBA ports on Mezzanine card 2
= 12 Ethernet Ports and 4 Fibre Ports (redundant)
In fact – if you didn’t need the Fibre HBAs, you could put in 2 x Quad port Ethernet cards and have ANOTHER 8 Ethernet ports (total of 20)!  This is remarkable!  No more physical I/O port limitations, you can achieve the quantity of I/O ports you need without moving to 10Gb.
FlexMem Bridge Technology Allows for More Memory in 2 Sockets
Intel’s Xeon 7500 architecture requires that you have a processor to access the associated memory DIMMs.  However, Dell created an innovative design that allows for you to use the memory associated with a 3rd and 4th processor without the need for the processors.  This technology is called “FlexMem Bridge.”  Dell’s FlexMem Bridge technology allows for you to sits in CPU sockets #3 and #4 and connects a memory controller from CPU 1 to the memory DIMMs associated to CPU socket #3 and CPU 2 to the memory associated to CPU Socket #4.   The FlexMem Bridge does two things: 
  1. It extends the Scalable Memory Interconnects (SMI) from CPU 1 and CPU 2 to the memory subsystem of CPU 3 and CPU 4.
  2. It reroutes and terminates the 2nd Quick Path Interconnect (QPI) inter-processor communications links to provide optimal performance which would otherwise be disconnected in a 2 CPU configuration.

Sometimes it’s easier to view pictures than read descriptions, so take a look at the picture below for a diagram on how this works.


I wrote a post on this technology a few weeks back, so jump over to this page and take a look (read the comments – good discussions were had.)

So – that about covers it. 

For more information on the Dell PowerEdge M910, check out the PowerEdge M910 Product Site at

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17 thoughts on “Dell M910 Blade Server Achieves #1 VMmark Score

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  7. Mike Roberts

    Nice article. one thing to clarify, M910 not only has the #1 VMmark score for a 16 core blade, more broadly it has the #1 VMmark score for ALL 2S blades. Cisco B250M2 (extended memory 2S based on Westmere EP) previously held this title. M910 bested Cisco's VMmark score without using 10Gb networking or latest EMC arrays with large # of SSDs. Plus M910 can scale in the box to 4S, has more top end memory scalability & has the added RAS features inherent in the Nehalem EX architecture.
    Mike Roberts (Dell)

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