Dell focuses on management with new servers

Dell Wednesday rolled out servers built on Intel's latest dual-core Xeon processor that company executives say are designed to help enterprise customers get a handle on spiraling system management and maintenance costs.

The PowerEdge 1950, 2900 and 2950, as well as the PowerEdge 1955 blade server, are based on Intel's 5000 series dual-core Xeon processor, code-named Dempsey. The systems also will support Intel's 5100 series dual-core Xeon processor, code-named Woodcrest, as well as upcoming quad-core Xeons.

With Dempsey, Intel is beginning its move toward making its processors perform better while requiring less power. Today, analysts say AMD holds the edge when it comes to power and performance, but expect Intel to take a big step in closing the gap when it releases Woodcrest in the next month or so.

Woodcrest is the first Xeon to use a new architecture, rather than Intel's NetBurst platform. Intel says the new design will result in smaller, more energy-efficient systems. For its part, Dell says its Woodcrest-based systems will offer up to 150 percent better performance than 2U Dell PowerEdge servers, while reducing power consumption by as much as 25 percent.

The Woodcrest-based systems and the PowerEdge 1955 aren't expected to be available until later this month, but the PowerEdge 1950, 2900 and 2950 with the Dempsey processor are shipping now, says Neil Hand, vice president of worldwide enterprise marketing for Dell.

HP and IBM have already announced servers based on the Dempsey processor, but systems are not yet shipping.

Since the basic components and cost of these new x86 systems likely will be the same, analysts say customers must differentiate based on factors such as management. Dell, for example, is focusing on reducing complexity and streamlining management with its new servers.

While hardware prices have stayed relatively stable, maintenance costs have continued to rise and now account for about 80 percent of the total cost of a server, Hand says. "Our objective here is to stop that increase," he says.

To do that, Dell is ensuring that its new systems have "commonality," Hand says.

"All of our new servers were designed by engineers off a single design base," he says. "So, customers can build a common software image that can be used across them. They'll have to deal with fewer changes once they build an image and they can build one image that manages across a lot of systems."

In addition, Dell announced the next release of its management software, OpenManage 5.0, which offers better integration with management tools from companies such as Microsoft, Altiris and Novell. In addition, OpenManage 5.0 offers better support for VMware ESX 3.0, Hand says.

Dell also plans to release four-processor AMD systems by year-end and Hand says the commonality of design will apply to those systems, as well.

The Dell PowerEdge 1950 and 2900 start at US$1,750, while the PowerEdge 2950 starts at US$1,850.

In a related move, Dell also updated its storage offerings Wednesday, introducing a variety of enhancements to its storage arrays, tape libraries and network attached storage appliances.

The company introduced two NAS servers based on the new PowerEdge 2900 and 2950 servers. With Windows Storage Server 2003 R2, a customer can install and configure a NAS device in less than 15 seconds, according to Dell's claims.

Dell has further enhanced the deployment and management of its Dell/EMC storage area network (SAN) arrays with the integration of EMC's Navisphere management software into the Dell IT Assistant management software. The two packages now share the same management console.

The company has added Serial ATA II disk drives to the PowerVault MD1000 direct-attached storage system. This system previously supported only Serial Attached SCSI drives. Dell also is expanding its modular PowerVault ML6000 tape libraries by adding a new control and expansion module, which increase the scalability of the library and its availability.

The ML6030 control module scales to 10 Fibre Channel or SCSI tape drives and 218 LTO-3 tape cartridges. The ML6000 expansion module, which offers additional drive and cartridge capacity, is expected to be available this month starting at US$3,000. The PowerVault MD1000 is also expected this month, starting at US$4,500.

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