With Dell, Egenera Seeks to Generate More Than Buzz

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Apr 17, 2009


Since our previous server snapshot on Egenera, little has changed on its primary BladeFrame line, other than incremental changes to the processor and other components. Server Snapshot: If you thought Egenera was just a niche player in the blades market, it's time to take a closer look. Its BladeFrame line may be its primary hardware, but a partnership with Dell aims to bring the heart of its offering -- PAN Manager software -- to the masses.

The big news, however, is an expansion of its flourishing relationship with Dell.

"Dell is leveraging Egenera's PAN Manager to complement its own hardware design," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata,

That deal is now moving forward in terms of tangible products and customer adoption.

"Our partnership with Dell is picking-up a head of steam lately," said Ken Oestreich, vice president of product marketing for Egenera (Marlboro, Mass.). "We announced the U.S. Veteran's Administration as our first joint customer in March. Many more are to follow."

The cement that keeps these two vendors together comes in the form of Egenera's Processing Area Network (PAN) Manager software. The idea behind PAN Manager is to move away from statically assigned servers, I/O and networks to create an environment containing flexible resources that can be easily re-allocated based on business requirements. Egenera gives this concept the grand name of "Infrastructure Orchestration".

Using PAN Manager, for example, you can provision and repurpose both virtual and physical x86 servers in a few minutes. In addition, it helps to cut down on system administration, logical portioning and more. Egenera regards this software as the core business value of its trademark BladeFrame systems. More recently, the company added a point-and-click interface to PAN to further enhance ease of use.

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So what does Dell want with it? Dell appears to see it as moving up the server food chain. Accordingly, it is now marketed as the Dell PAN System.

"Our arrangement includes Dell pre-integrating Egenera's PAN Manager software onto Dell servers for sale, which includes professional services and support as well," said Oestreich. "The two companies are cooperating on marketing, selling and delivering these systems today."

The Dell PAN System is basically a pre-configured Dell server that comes with PAN Manager software. The goal of the combo is to reduce total cost of ownership across the board — hardware, software, power, cooling and floor space. At the same time, however, it also helps Dell to enter into higher levels of mission-critical application availability and responsiveness.

"Another aspect of the relationship is to assist Dell to compete more effectively in the mission-critical data centers that they are just beginning to sell into," said Oestreich. "We help them compete in these markets against HP, IBM and even Sun."

While this relationship formally began almost a year ago, the current fanfare is linked to the appearance of the Dell PAN System inside the Dell m1000e blade chassis. For example, the m610 blade uses the Intel Xeon 5500 processor.

"We intend to keep in lock-step with Dell technologies in the future," said Oestreich. "Supporting these high-performance blades means providing Dell with highly reliable, re-purposable blades that are ideal for high-performance physical, and densely consolidated virtual environments."

As the first customer, the Veteran's Administration is running a pandemic-monitoring application.

"This required high-availability and virtualization, as well as non-virtualized Oracle databases," said Oestreich. "They were looking for a system that they could easily grow, and that would scale linearly, while maintaining the high-reliability they needed."

BladeFrame

Interestingly, the Dell PAN System for the m1000E blade chassis is targeted at users with mission-critical environments, not unlike those for the BladeFrame. Pricing for the Dell units will be significantly lower. Oestreich is quick to point out, though, that the Dell offering doesn't offer quite the same performance as its BladeFrame counterparts.

Meanwhile, Egenera continues to roll out steady improvements to its Egenera hardware to ensure that gap remains. It has updated its blades with four and six-core Intel Xeon 7450 processors along with up to 192 GB of memory. The company also announced support for Intel Nehalem (Xeon 5500) processors, which will be available soon.

Each frame of the BladeFrame EX, for instance, can hold up to 24 six-core 2.4 GHz processors. In addition, they harness PAN Manager to enhance their value in mission-critical settings.

"BladeFrame blades are fully repurposable, meaning any blade can run any workload (physical and/or virtual) and any unused blade can fill in for any blade failure (N+1 high availability)," said Oestreich. "Further, any frame of blades can provide disaster recovery for any other frame — including re-constituting all of the workloads, I/O configuration and inter-blade network configurations automatically."

The BladeFrame ES is nearly the same as the EX when it comes to performance and manageability. However, since it mounts in a smaller rack, it is aimed more at call centers, remote sites and branch offices.

Egenera's Servers, At a Glance

 
BladeFrame ES
BladeFrame EX
Dell Pan System
Vendor Egenera Egenera Egenera and Dell
Platform x86 x86 x86
Dimensions 82" x 24" x 30"; 1000lbs 23" x 18" x 30"; 280lbs (Based on Dell m1000E blade enclosure) Form Factor: 10U modular enclosure Holds up to 16 half-height blade servers 44.0cm(17.3")H x 44.7cm(17.6")W x 75.4cm(29.7")D. Weight: Empty Chassis only - 98lbs (44.5kg)
Processor Details Six-Core Intel Xeon Processor Model 7450, 2.4GHz, 32, 64, 96, 128 or 192 GB RAM Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor Model 5450 3.00 GHz, 8, 16 or 32 GB RAM, or Quad-Core Intel Xeon processor Model 5410 2.33 GHz, 8 GB RAM Intel Xeon 5000 or 5500 series Dual or Quad Core, up to 96GB RAM
Hard Drives None - all storage is external None - all storage is external n/a
Operating Systems Windows, Red Hat Linux, SuSE Linux, Solaris 10, VMware VI3, XenServer, ORACLE Enterprise Linux Windows, Red Hat Linux, SuSE Linux, Solaris 10, VMware VI3, XenServer, ORACLE Enterprise Linux Windows, Red Hat, SUSE, XenServer, VMware

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