Once tech non grata, Microsoft's virtualization platform is making a comeback thanks to Dell.
Today, Dell is considered among the prominent IT hardware vendors in all industry segments in which it competes, chiefly servers, storage, PCs and services. Initially, however, Dell was anything but enterprise-oriented, and its rise to prominence is a stark contrast with that of other enterprise server players, like IBM and HP.
Founded in 1984, Dell (NASDAQ: DELL) is the "youngest" of the major server OEMs. Its roots are in the PC era rather than the mainframe heyday, and its story and culture sprung from that. In the 1980s, Dell's claim to fame was PCs and later laptops, which it sold first to consumers and soon after to businesses.
In 1994, Dell introduced its PowerEdge server line. From the start, PowerEdge servers stood apart from the crowd. Like other Dell products, PowerEdge servers were sold direct to the customer, not via the channel. In addition, all PowerEdge servers adhered to and continue to follow "industry standards," although there is no shortage of choices. Today, Dell's more than 20 PowerEdge offerings come in tower server, rackmount server and blade server form factors. Dell's server naming conventions make it easy to differentiate among models: R = rack, T = tower and M = blade. Servers in its recently released high-performance computing family, the PowerEdge C Server line, have C in their model number.
All Dell servers are built in an x86 architecture using Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors and support various flavors of Windows and Linux. PowerEdge servers also support the three major virtualization hypervisors -- VMware, Microsoft Hyper-V and Citrix XenServer.
In today's computing environments, industry standard does not necessarily mean low-compute power. The newest and recently refreshed PowerEdge machines feature the latest AMD Opteron 6000 and Intel Xeon 5600 series processors. Even more indicative of their enterprise-readiness is Dell's new Lifecycle Controller, an embedded systems management application that offers admins a view of their entire IT infrastructure in a single-console view from which they can do all of their provisioning, including system deployment, system updates, hardware configuration and diagnostics.
As Dell has transformed from being primarily a consumer PC maker to an enterprise player, so too have its offerings. Dell no longer sells just PCs and servers. In recent years, Dell has aggressively grown its enterprise storage products beyond its PowerVault tape drive product line, both organically and through acquisition. It now offers data protection, direct-attached storage, networked storage and object storage options.
Dell also sells a number of network devices through its PowerConnect family.
In 2010, Dell introduced a number of services offerings as well as server management software. To fuel this growth, Dell made a number of acquisitions. Products and technology from Compellent, Equalogic, Exanet, Kace, Scalent and SecureWorks have found their way into Dell's lines.
Despite Dell's success as an enterprise player, it has not forgotten its roots. Across the board, its products adhere to industry standards, and it continues to appeal to consumers and SMBs in addition to enterprises. For several years now, the Dell First Server program has been popular with SMBs. With Dell First Server, firms have a choice of three Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2 powered tower servers designed for easy install and upgradability.
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