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Reference Material Dell Edge 610, VEP1400 and VEP1400-X series

Introduction

Note: this is a work in progress, diagrams, pictures etc. will be added as well. And I'll ask ChatGPT to condense some of the walls of text with some smaller walls of text after I'm done with my brain dump ;)

The Dell VEP series contains desktop and rack-mountable hardware intended to be used as hosts in SD-WAN, SASE, and edge computing scenarios. Since they have been around for a while, a good number of them is starting to show up on eBay and recycling companies with widely varying pricing and details on what they actually are.

From Dell's perspective, they support almost nothing about it as they function mostly like an ODM and OEM for the hardware, and it is up to the software vendor to actually provide the business value and customer interaction. For some cases that means they work mostly like stand-alone servers, while in other cases they are more like embedded networked hosts performing a single specific task.

This reference contains information on the hardware, repurposing it for other uses and what various variations entail.

Main hardware families

Between the various models, the first big difference is the 19" rack-mounted types vs. the desktop designs. The former is rather expensive for what it is, while the latter tends to be a good mix of features and performance for your average networking needs.

While the VEP4600 rack mount family is interesting, I don't have one of those, and they are at a price point where it's much more reasonable to just buy a brand new server that does the same stuff but better, so we'll stick to the desktop models here. Those come in roughly two versions: VEP1400 and VEP1400-X.

VEP1400

This is what you're going to come across on the lower end (and very cheap) listings, it is also known as the Edge 610, SD-WAN, VeloCloud, or just Dell VEP1400. They all come with 6 copper and 2 SFP+ ports, all 1GbE only. They also don't have an SSD, but instead use an eMMC drive to store any software, and all versions so far (4GB and 8GB RAM models) don't have SO-DIMM slots, but also don't have fans (and are very quiet as a result). The network ports are connected via an internal switch chip, which itself is connected to the two controllers built into the Intel C3000 SoC. Both ports run at 2.5Gb/s to the switch as far as we can tell.

VEP1400-X

This is where it gets extra-interesting, because most models have an mSATA SSD, SO-DIMM expansion, 10Gb/s SFP+ connections and instead of using an internal switch chip, they use additional Intel NICs to supply individual network ports. They also come with higher core counts, higher core frequencies and active cooling, which is done using two tiny fans which results in annoying noise until you replace them with something Noctua-like.

Common features

They are all ECC-enabled C3000-based x86 PCs under the hood. Designed to be always-on, they simply turn on once power is applied, and stay on until power is removed. A watchdog makes sure that if you accidentally issue a shutdown within the OS, it resets itself and doesn't actually stay down but comes right back up.

Because the devices are intended to be used on the edge, and likely in end-user scenarios, they don't have many options to interact with them. Besides an RGB LED on the front (and optionally an illuminated VMWare logo on some Edge models), two USB 3.0 ports (one on each side) and the network ports on the back you only get a USB-based serial console behind a screw-on metal cover. On the non-X models that's mini-USB-B most of the time, and on some of the upper X-models it's a micro-USB-B. They also all have the same locking barrel jack DC power supply and a recessed reset button.

Some versions some with LTE modems (in an internal PCIe/NVMe slot), and have a SIM-card holder that's behind the same screw-on cover. When not installed from the factory, they have some silver tape over the metal slot, perhaps in an effort to make it appear like there is nothing to see there and we should move along.

They also have integrated WiFi and sometimes Bluetooth, most likely for local setup. The SD-WAN and SASE software collected so far doesn't seem to use the Bluetooth part.

On the inside, you'll also find a bunch of extras, like redundant SPI flash ROMs for booting, a PIC which manages power, temperature, brownout detection, boot selection via the reset button on the back. It might also be the device controlling the RGB LED. This PIC is internally connected to the I2C bus. All versions also contain a Lattice MachXO2 FPGA (Dell insists on calling it a CPLD), and two USB3.0 switch chips, also connected over I2C, which can be used to individually turn the side-ports on and off via software control.

Next to the ethernet ports, two small buttons are mounted on the PCB which seem to control system reset and system configuration reset. The PIC seems to have persistent storage in it, or it is using part of the SPI flash chips shared with the C3000 SoC. Either way, those buttons are likely just setting a flag at which point a system reset happens and the configuration gets reset to defaults. Which defaults depends on the device model and revision.

All models also have an ID EEPROM, a small SPI flash device containing TLV (Type, Length, Value) data in a Dell-common format. It contains the serial number, service tag, model number and a few other bits of data. This can be very useful when not physically near the machine to get those numbers. One of the bits of data seems to the the base MAC address. In some Dell DiagOS and VeloCloud versions, references to MAC calculations are made suggesting all VEP models come with a whole range of addresses (either 16 or 32 of them). Considering switched ports wouldn't have their own MAC address, but might need individual addresses if the switch is configured to expose different things on different ports, this makes sense.
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This is an awesome topic and a great guide.