Hardware Today — Dell Server Snapshot

When we last pointed our server snapshot lens at Dell, the picture revealed a vendor aiming squarely at commodity success. In that January article, we noted that all of Dell's offerings were 2-way or 4-way servers and that the Texas-based system vendor was focusing on lowering list prices far below the competition. We raised concerns that some of Dell's servers were so low end, they hardly seemed like servers at all. We were also troubled by the company's lack of a clear blade strategy. We once thought Dell might be too low-end for its own good as well as fuzzy on its blade strategy, but the company continues to add value to its entry-level servers while it sharpens its blade focus. However, we do wonder if it will ever give AMD a chance.

Recent Server Snapshots
As we revisit Dell, our first concern has proved to be unfounded, given Dell's continued market success and slight restructuring of its low-end. Its entry-level servers pack more processing powerful and feature a better architecture, while retaining low price points.

Regarding our other concern, Dell recently announced a blade model based on Intel's new Nocona processor. With those earler fears laid to rest, we'll take a look at how Dell continues to follow Intel's roadmap all the way to the bank. We will also speculate on processor choices as we ponder the question, will Dell ever give AMD a second look?

New Prez, Strong Numbers and Nocona

It has been a lucrative six months for Dell. Last month, Kevin Rollins took on the role of CEO and president. Just last week it released its Q2 earnings, which showed substantial revenue and unit sales increases. In fact, IDC numbers for Q1 2004 showed Dell in a statistical tie with Sun for third place in worldwide server market revenue on gains in units shipped, among other positive factors. The company will look to keep this momentum with a flurry of new product releases.

To kick off the month of August, Dell announced its 2-way eighth-generation Xeon Nocona Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T)-based servers. Each eighth-generation system will feature 3.6 GHz Xeon, an 800 MHz front side bus, a maximum 8 GB DDR-2 RAM and PCI-Express buses.

"Two-processor PowerEdge servers are the fundamental base of our product line," Darrel Ward, Dell's senior manager for server product management, said. The 2-way 1U PowerEdge 1850 rack and the 2U PowerEdge 2850 rackable tower will be the first EM64T-based systems out the door on Sept. 9. with prices starting at $1,799 and $1,899, respectively.

In October, Dell is expected to ship more expandable rackable towers. The 5U PowerEdge 2800 will feature seven I/O slots and house up to ten hot-plug internal SCSI drives for 1.4 TB internal storage. The entry-level PowerEdge 1800 features six I/O slots and will allow up to six hot-plug internal SCSI drives.

Other Recent Additions

In June, Dell also quietly added the PowerEdge 7250, its heavy-hitting 4-way Itanium-2 rack server aimed at the High Performance Computing (HPC) space. In a busy February, it rounded out its entry-level offerings, added 700 tower and 750 rack P4-based servers, while — sensibly — retiring its lowest-end servers.

The following chart is an overview of Dell's server offerings. New additions are noted in bold; newly retired servers are italicized.

Dell's PowerEdge Servers, At a Glance
Blade Servers1
Target Deployment Lightweight file, print, and e-mail serving for one to 10 users SMB and departmental enterprise needs, also DB serving for one to 100 users Departmental enterprise needs, larger needs via HPC and high-availability clusters General use and Beowulf HPC clusters
Processor Types Pentium 4, Celeron, Xeon Xeon, Xeon EM64T
Pentium 4, Xeon, Xeon EM64T, Itanium-2 Pentium 3
Processor Range 1 to 2 1 to 4 1 to 4 1 to 2
Operating Systems Win200X, NetWare, Linux Win200X/NT, NetWare, Linux Win200X, NetWare, Linux Win2000, Linux
Servers 400SC,
1655 MC
Price2 $249 to $549 $549 to $3,699 $799 to $12,499 From $1,1993

1Dell considers its Blade offering a part of its Rack Dense Performance Servers line. We broke it out for clarification purposes. Its new Xeon EM64T Nocona blade is due out in Q4.
2Minimum configuration, after rebates. Prices in bold indicate new lows, indicative of Dell's killer price point.
3Price does not include blade enclosure.
4These newly announced next-generation Xeon Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T) servers
should ship 9/9/2004.
5These newly announced next-generation Xeon EM64T Newly servers are due to ship in October, with OS support to come in Q1 2005.
6Newly announced rackable tower server with next-generation Xeon EM64T support will
ship in October.

>> Continued on Page 2: What's the Difference?

This article was originally published on Aug 16, 2004
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