Server Snapshots: Spotlight on Dell

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted May 15, 2008


It's an old and familiar adage that it is much easier to rise toward the top than stay there. Dell (Round Rock, Texas), has certainly found this to be the case. After its meteoric rise from a student dorm to the IT big time during the 1990s and the early part of this decade, it has more recently been going through a period of layoffs, restructuring and general adjustment. Although it hasn't been able to match its earlier growth rates, Dell has certainly managed to maintain its status as a hardware powerhouse. As such, it remains in in third equal position in the server sweepstakes — locked in a battle royale with Sun Microsystems (Santa Clara, Calif.).

New server names and a firm embrace of AMD have contributed to Dell's return to favor. Can it take back the No. 3 slot?

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If x86 systems are viewed alone, however, Dell's standing rises dramatically. According Framingham, Mass. based IDC, the company's $1.5 billion in quarterly revenues places it second equal behind HP. According to Jed Scaramella, an analyst at IDC, Dell and IBM (Armonk, N.Y.), are running neck and neck in x86 server revenues, with each vendor securing about 20 percent of the market.

Since our previous snapshot in October 2007, Dell embarked on several significant shifts to its server portfolio. One change that spans Dell's entire PowerEdge line is a new numbering system for identifying servers. This is well under way and will be completed in the coming months. It will also apply to new servers as they are introduced to the market.

The new naming convention starts with the server type: "R" stands for rack server, "T" for tower, and "M" for modular or blades. The first number indicates the number of sockets in the system: one to four for one socket, five to eight for two sockets, and nine for four sockets; this is followed by a number to indicate the generation of the server, and the last digit indicates whether this system uses Intel or AMD platform (0 represents Intel, 5 represents AMD).

"The PowerEdge R900 is a 4-socket rack server that uses Intel chips," said Armando Acosta, PowerEdge senior product line manager at Dell. "The R900 is Dell's highest performing server ever, a 4-socket, 4U system designed from the ground up for running mission-critical enterprise databases and applications."

Other new systems introduced using the new naming convention include the R200, R300, T105, T605, T300, M600, M605, R805 and R905. The M600 and M605 represent what has become Dell's new blade line up. Built on Dell's Energy Smart technologies, the PowerEdge M-Series enables businesses to save on power and cooling costs while increasing server capacity. According to Acosta, the M-Series consumes up to 19 percent less power and achieves up to 25 percent better performance per watt than the HP BladeSystem c-Class.

The R805 and R905, of course, are rack servers using AMD processors. The 2-socket PowerEdge R805, for example, delivers twice the memory and I/O capacity of Dell's previous-generation, 2-socket models. The R905, on the other hand, is a 4-socket box. The company characterizes both the R805 and R905 as "virtualization optimized servers."

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"With a choice of VMware ESXi 3.5 or Citrix XenServer Dell Express Edition integrated hypervisors, the PowerEdge R805 and R905 servers can deliver the optimal platform for virtualized environments," said Acosta.

Dell's recently introduced T605, is intended for small and midsize businesses or remote locations. The T605 is equipped with quad-core AMD Opteron processors and, according to the company, achieves up to 23 percent better performance than the HP ProLiant ML350 G5. This 2-socket tower server offers high-availability features, such as redundant power supplies, hot plug hard drives and remote management features to help increase uptime and prevent loss of data access.

Two entry-level tower and rack servers introduced by Dell in the past few months include the R200 and T105. The main point here, said Acosts, was to design systems to help customers simplify their server environments. The R200, for example, can function well as an advanced computing platform or can be used in dense, remote office server setting for general purpose computing. The T105 is an entry-level one-socket tower server designed for small businesses, especially for e-mail, Web and file/print services for a small workgroup or as a dedicated application server.

It goes without saying that the Dell models featured above take advantage of the latest AMD and Intel have to offer. In particular, many of the newer ProLiant models feature AMD quad-core chips.

"Dell PowerEdge servers have taken performance to new levels with the launch of quad-core AMD Opteron processors," said Acosta. "The PowerEdge SC1435, 2970, 6950, R805, R905 and M605 platforms now offer AMD's new quad-core processors, supporting Dell's strategy to drive more complete and cost-effective enterprise technologies across various customer environments."

Although Dell was once an Intel-only zone, it seems to have embraced AMD wholeheartedly. Acosta noted that its 2-socket servers including the PowerEdge SC1435, 2970 and M605 can deliver up to 79 percent better performance compared to the same servers operating with dual-core AMD Opteron. Meanwhile, the PowerEdge 2950 continues to be Dell's best selling server. The 2950 has a 2U form factor and solid features that allow customers to deploy it for just about any business application or as a virtualization platform. Acosta pointed out that the PowerEdge 2950 has the No. 1 score for 2-socket virtualization on the Vmark virtualization benchmark test. "Dell now offers a streamlined deployment with a factory embedded hypervisor" he said. "This type of performance, versatility, and features solidify the PE 2950 as Dell's best selling server."

Dell's PowerEdge Servers, At a Glance

  Towers Rack Servers Blade Servers
Target Deployment General-purpose servers featuring remote manageability, expandability and deployment flexibility. Suitable for SMB and departmental enterprise needs as well as database serving one to 100 users. Also suitable for small workgroups needing high-availability features and memory capacity to drive productivity. Departmental enterprise needs, ideal for network infrastructure, Web applications, additional storage capacity and high-performing and demanding business applications Environments needing to consolidate computing resources to maximize efficiency, front-end mainstream business applications, virtualized environments demanding the utmost in performance/watt, memory-intensive applications, front-end HPC nodes, server consolidation, high-density environments running network infrastructure, Web applications, compute nodes, HPC applications, and file and print
Processor Types Dual-core Intel Pentium E2180, dual-core Intel Xeon 3040, dual-core AMD Opteron 1210, dual-core AMD Opteron 1212, Intel Xeon quad core, Intel Core 2 Duo and Intel Celeron
Enhanced versions feature up to 2 dual-core AMD Opteron 2200 series processors or quad-core Opteron 2300 series processors
Dual and quad-core Intel Xeon 3100, 3200, 3300, 5100, 5200, 5300, 5400 and L5400 series; single Intel Core 2 Duo E4000, E6405 and E6305; single Intel Pentium dual-core E2100 and E2200 series; single Intel Celeron E1000 and 400 series; dual-core AMD Opteron 2200, 2300 and 8200 series; quad-core AMD Opteron 7300 and 8300 series Quad-core Xeon (also 64-bit) and quad-core AMD Opteron, dual-core Xeon and Opteron
Operating Systems Microsoft Small Business Server, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, Windows Server Windows Server, Red Hat Linux, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux Windows Server, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux, VMware
Servers PowerEdge T105
PowerEdge SC440
PowerEdge 840
PowerEdge T300
PowerEdge T605
PowerEdge 2900 III
PowerEdge 1900
PowerEdge SC1430
PowerEdge R200
PowerEdge R300
PowerEdge SC1435
PowerEdge 1950 III
PowerEdge R805
PowerEdge 2950 III
PowerEdge 2970
PowerEdge R905
PowerEdge R900
PowerEdge 6950
PowerEdge M1000e, 10U Modular Blade Enclosure
PowerEdge M600, 2-Socket, Quad-Core Blade Server
PowerEdge M605, 2-Socket, Dual-Core Blade Server
PowerEdge 1955, 2-Socket, Quad-Core Blade Server
Entry Price $349 $799 $1,149

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