Hardware Today: Dell Server Snapshot

For the past decade, Dell has gained ground steadily by hugging the low-end of the server market, and doing it better and less expensively than any other vendor. According to the latest server penetration numbers from IDC, that strategy has taken Dell to the No. 4 spot in the worldwide server space based on revenue, the No. 2 spot in x86 server sales worldwide and the top spot in North America, and the No. 3 in Linux server revenue.

Dell has spent the past decade steadily gaining ground by hugging the low-end of the server market. Is it now ready to cross the commodity chasm?

But the commodity approach can take you only so far, and it may no longer be enough if Dell is to continue to gain ground. The company's standing in x86 servers is under attack by IBM, and Big Blue tied with Dell for revenue in this category for fourth-quarter 2004.

"There seems to be a shift in the market with enterprises spending more on solutions and giving less weight to cost," says IDC analyst John Humphreys. "Cost is still important, but perhaps not as important as it once was. Dell tends to push cost, but the solution message needs to emphasized more."

Recent Server Snapshots
HPC Market

Dell's recent offerings indicate it is heeding this warning. The vendor has two 4-way products, a better server management platform in the Dell OpenManage 4.3 release, a redesigned blade architecture, and a 1U model specifically designed for supercomputing clusters. The company has also consolidated its component inventory to simplify system administration and maintenance.

"Mixing our various server products is easy, as they are all based on common BIOS, motherboards, firmware, drivers, and the same system management software," says Antonio Julio, server product manager at Dell.

Server Lines

As shown in the grid below, Dell subdivides its PowerEdge server offerings into three main lines: Value Towers, Performance Towers, and Rack Dense Performance servers. Blades are considered a sub-section of the latter category. Dell categorizes all three lines as eighth-generation (8G) systems. At the core of its 8G offerings is a 3.6 GHz Xeon EM64T processor, an 800 MHz front side bus, DDR-2 400 ECC memory, and PCI-Express buses.

Dell's PowerEdge Servers, At a Glance

  Value Towers Performance Towers Rack Dense Performance Servers Blade Servers1
Target Deployment Lightweight file, print, and e-mail serving for up to 10 users SMB and enterprise departments as well as database serving for up to to 100 users Enterprise departments and HPC high-availability clusters General use and Beowulf HPC clusters
Processor Types Pentium 4, Celeron, Xeon EM64T Celeron, Xeon, Xeon EM64T Celeron, Pentium 4, Xeon, Xeon EM64T, Itanium-2 Xeon EM64T
Processor Range 1 to 2 1 to 4 1 to 4 1 to 2
Operating Systems Windows 200x, Red Hat Linux Windows 200x, NetWare, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux Windows 200x, NetWare, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux Windows 200x, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux
Servers SC420,
2800 ,
1850 ,
1855 ,
2850 ,
Entry Price $349 to $549 $549 to $3,999 $549 to $12,499 $1,6992
1 Dell considers its Blade offering part of its Rack Dense Performance Servers line. We broke it out for clarification purposes.
2 Price does not include blade enclosure.

As would be expected, most changes to the Value Line are incremental. The PowerEdge SC1420, for example, has a Xeon processor, while the lower-end SC420 contains more competitively priced Celeron and Pentium-4-based systems.

>> Pin-Pointing PowerEdge

This article was originally published on Apr 11, 2005
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