Dell Revamps for On-Demand Control

By Michael Singer (Send Email)
Posted Aug 3, 2004

To break away from the pack of other 64-bit Intel-related news this week, Dell is hoping to beat its rivals with a revision to its server management software. The computer maker has beefed up its utility computing software to complement its new 64-bit Xeon hardware.

Like so many other server manufacturers, the computer maker said Monday it is revising its marquee PowerEdge servers with Intel's 64-bit Xeon "Nocona" chip with its corresponding Lindenhurst chipset. The processor pairing is noteworthy, because it features 64-bit compatibility, enhanced memory, I/O, bus technologies and a new storage I/O processor (formerly codenamed "Dobson") that improves RAID capabilities.

Dell, which is an Intel-only shop, is offering four new PowerEdge rack servers -- 1800, 1850, 2800 and 2850 -- to compete heavily with products from rivals HP, IBM, and Sun Microsystems.

But beyond simple sales, Dell is hoping to seal the deal on some real customer loyalty with the latest version of its OpenManage system management software. Version 4 of its utility computing software includes a broad range of remote management features, such as Intelligent Platform Management Interface (IPMI) version 1.5 baseboard management controllers, Dell Remote Access Card (DRAC) 4 management software with a continuous video console capability, and Microsoft Active Directory support and remote media access.

As for Dell's OpenManage road map, 2004 through 2006 is about integrating its systems. While not as extensive as rival offerings from IBM (eBusiness on-demand), HP (Adaptive Enterprise) and Sun (N1 Grid), Dell is using tight-knit relationships to help bolster its strategy.

The company looks to VMware for virtualization software, which lets system administrators move applications from one server box to another. For its storage needs, it uses EMC, as well as works closely with the Storage Networking Industry Association (SNIA) and supports the Open Cluster Group's OSCAR open source project. Dell also relies on Microsoft's MOM console and Altiris' OMCA 2.0 platform for local recovery. Dell says it looks to Oracle and SAP for database support and enterprise software.

Bruce Kornfeld, Dell's director of worldwide marketing, told internetnews.com that his company tries to remain vendor-neutral but focused on standardization across hardware and operating system applications.

"What our customers can expect is that we will create the glue that is the backbone of customers' IT infrastructure," Kornfeld said. "We partner with the software providers so customers don't get locked into proprietary systems."

But Dell's strategy is only a year old, and despite its customer loyalty with its hardware, has had few success stories with its OpenManage platform. Kornfeld could only come up with a generic list comprised of automotive and manufacturing customers. The company does not boast of any wins in the telecommunications or government sectors.

Dell supports an Enterprise Command Center, which includes phone support and the ability to manage any customer's software. But Kornfeld said the company is avoiding becoming a utility itself. Instead, Dell continues to pursue its customer-controlled model with its OpenManage software control system as the center. In the 2005 to 2008 time frame, Dell said it is looking at extending the software to better allocate resources without human intervention using policy-based, self-monitoring, self-correcting, and self-managing software.

"In this way, we can deploy the right services," Kornfeld said. "And when it comes to onsite support we will contract with a third party to address the customer's needs."

In the meantime, getting customers to unplug their proprietary Unix servers and use Dell to monitor their multi-vendor environments requires upgrades to hardware, as well.

Dell said its 1U 1850 ($1,799) and 2U 2850 ($1,899) are available now with PCI Express; 800MHz Front Side Bus; memory mirroring and redundant Gigabit network interface cards; support for clustering as well as storage area networks (SAN); common drivers and BIOS for consistency; as well as integrated IPMI (Intelligent Platform Management Interface) 1.5 baseboard management controllers. The servers are factory installed with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 (32-bit edition) and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 3 (32/64-bit edition) and come with the option of a DRAC 4 card with continuous video access, as well as Microsoft Active Directory Integration and virtual CD/floppy drives.

Dell said it plans to offer the entry-level PowerEdge 1800 and its advanced 2800 in October. The 2800-server is expected to come as either a tower or 5U rack server with 1.4 TB of internal data storage and support for up to 10 hard drives.

Two-processor capacity server unit shipments have served Dell very well in the past. According to industry analyst firm IDC, the 2U model is expected to account for more than 6.2 million units in 2008, nearly double the 3.5 million units shipped in 2003. Single- and dual-processor capacity servers also represented 91 percent of all server unit shipments in 2003, which Dell has also taken advantage of.

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

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