Dell Gets Back To Basics With New Server Line

By Andy Patrizio | Posted November 13, 2007

Dell is announcing a refresh to its server line that offers some major changes to more than just the processor.

As part of its server refresh, Dell is changing its modeling and numbering scheme. Servers now start with an R, T or M for Rack, Tower or Modular, followed by three digits. The first indicates the performance, with 9 standing for a four-socket quad-core while 1 means a single socket dual-core. The second digit is for the generation in that server line and the final digit is a 0 for Intel-based and 5 for AMD-based.

At the top of the food chain is Dell's new PowerEdge R900, a Xeon 7350-based, four-processor server running Windows Server 2003 or Red Hat Linux. This 4U server will replace the PowerEdge 6850 on the high end.

In addition to the new chips inside, Dell has added standards-based power monitoring capabilities for controlling power consumption, added its Trusted Platform Module (TPM) for improved security and updated Dell OpenManage to version 5.3, providing customers with greater and more simplified control of data centers and virtual environments.

One step down the product line come the PowerEdge 1950, 2950 and 2900, which are not part of the new naming scheme. These servers will run the new Intel Penryn-based Xeon 5400 processors, feature optimized energy consumption technologies and support PMBus, iSCSI boot and 10-gigabit Ethernet.

"The 5400 series will be important," said Daniel Bounds, senior manager for Dell's PowerEdge servers. "They are adding standards-based power monitoring capabilities inside the box and we're adding hardware hooks back to OpenManage to get a richer view of how the server is performing from a power perspective."

The 5400 shows a 15 percent improvement in Web benchmarks and 23 percent improvement in Java transactions over the 5300 processors, he added. They will also be 90 percent power efficient, up from the 86 percent power efficiency of the older servers.

On the more affordable end of the spectrum, there's the PowerEdge R200 and PowerEdge T105. The R200 is a one-socket, 1U rack while the T105 is a general-purpose tower that will feature AMD's single processor version of the Quad Core Opteron.

Dell OpenManage 5.3, the company’s systems management software, has been updated to provide advanced power monitoring and virtualization management features and will allow for updating serial attached SCSI drives while they remain online. Older versions required that the storage be disconnected and shut down for maintenance, but this version allows them to remain running.

James Staten, an analyst with Forrester Research, said these changes are important, necessary and can be credited to the return of Michael Dell. "A lot of the revamp is part of the bigger strategy to simplify things, and they are finding things they weren't looking at in the past, like realizing their machines were slower, more power consumptive and a pain to manage," he said.

Dell is looking at all of these issues and the result is systems that are faster, more power efficient and easier to use. Its competitors, including IBM, HP and Sun, all had these features, so Dell is playing catch up.

"This is efficiency not in a 'what's-in-it-for-Dell-mode,' but a 'what's-in-it-for-the-customer,' and that's a really important change that Michael is bringing back," said Staten. Dell wasn't even building or designing its own servers for a while, it was outsourcing that work just to get into the market.

"It was faster and easier and cheaper. Now they are realizing that it only got them into the game, but it wouldn't keep them there. It's certainly Michael's doing. He's taking a personal interest in driving this kind of change," Staten said.

Adapted from Internetnews.com.

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