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Dell Goes Multicore

By Clint Boulton (Send Email)
Posted Sep 27, 2005



Dell is standing its ground in the server market schoolyard with new products and foregoing antagonizing remarks about competitors that are routine in the technology industry. The systems vendor is the first to market with dual-socket, dual-core machines. Will Sun seethe?

Weeks after Sun Microsystems ripped the systems vendor's servers as "slow, hot, and huge," Dell is releasing versions of its PowerEdge dual-core servers with two sockets, a multicore approach that offers over 50 percent more performance than its single socket, dual-core predecessors.

Dual-core technology puts two processing units, or sockets, onto a single chip, offering as much as one-and-a-half times the performance of single core silicon, without boosting power consumption. Analysts say chips with more than one core will help accommodate cutting-edge applications that require a lot of computer power to run.

Now Dell's dual-socket PowerEdge 1850, 2800, 2850, and 1855 blade servers, and Dell Precision 470 and 670 workstations, will feature the same Intel chipsets used in single-core Intel Xeon processors for servers and workstations, said Neil Hand, vice president, worldwide enterprise systems at Dell.

The beauty of these spiced up machines, said Hand, is that they will not force customers to reconfigure their existing software infrastructure, making it a snap for those who wish to migrate to multicore.

This is because the new machines feature a single system image, meaning they will work with dual-core systems customers already own from Dell.

For example, customers can have a dual-core PowerEdge 1850 they bought three months ago, sitting next to a new multi-core 1850 and the same image (e.g., operating system configuration, and systems management tools) will work on both machines. The multicore will just operate more than 50 percent faster than the dual-core, Hand explained.

"We really don't see customers touching their installed base to go off and do these kinds of upgrades," Hand said. "The important thing is: they add infrastructure and don't increase their cost of management by having differences between the installed base and the new systems."

Moreover, the PowerEdge machines with multicore chips are the same size as the dual-core servers.

Dell customers may pre-order PowerEdge 1850, 1855, 2800, and 2850 servers with Microsoft Windows Server 2003 and Red Hat Enterprise Linux, priced at $2,448, $2,448, $2,548, and $2,748, respectively.

The Dell Precision 470 and 670 can be pre-ordered with Windows XP Professional and Red Hat Enterprise Linux for $2,479 and $2,779 respectively.

The news effectively makes Dell the first vendor to surface with dual-socket, dual core, Intel-based machines. The Round Rock, Texas company was also the first to offer dual-core servers based on Intel chips back in July.

Whether being first to market for dual-sockets will make a difference or not is tough to say, but it does officially put multicore machines on the map.

It's also likely to further annoy Dell competitors.

Earlier this month, Sun President Jonathan Schwartz called the direct sales computer pioneer's servers "slow, hot, and huge" and chided its rival for focusing more on its flat-screen LCDs for consumers than improving its servers.

Sun is hoping its new line of AMD Opteron-based, 64-bit Galaxy servers help it steal market share in the x86 space from Dell, which uses Intel chips exclusively.

Like the new Dell multi-core machines, Galaxy servers are meant to run high-performance computing and Web-based applications commonly found in the data centers of financial institutions. Also, like Dell's systems, the Galaxy machines are priced in the $2,000 range

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