ServersServer Snapshots: Dell PowerEdge M Series Blades

Server Snapshots: Dell PowerEdge M Series Blades

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Drew Robb

In the new Dell naming convention system, T is for tower and R is for rack. So you would expect B would mean blade. Not so. In its infinite wisdom, Dell (Round Rock, Texas) has opted for M, as in modular — hence the new Dell M Series blades. For now, though, the M line has two products: one AMD-powered blade and one Intel-powered blade.

Will four times be the charm for Dell’s blades? Dell has entered the blade arena, yet again. It’s new M Series line may be small, but it offers both AMD- and Intel-based blades and an array of configuration options.

This actually represents Dell’s fourth attempt to carve out a slice of the blade market pie. Its first three launches were largely disappointing due to lack of management capabilities and other shortcomings. The latest M Series replaces the previous-generation Dell blade, the PowerEdge 1955, which is no longer sold.

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“It would be easy to be cynical and assume that this will be yet another half-hearted lap around the track,” said Gordon Haff, an analyst for Illuminata (Nashua, N.H.). “However, there are changes in both the market and within Dell that give us reason to be more positive about this latest turn of the crank.”

He pointed out that the failures of Dell to break into the blade market make sense when you consider that the company is not renowned for innovation or for evangelizing new technology. It typically prefers to focus on creating familiar mainstream products and making them low-cost and easy to order. Now that blades have moved further along the technology maturity curve, Haff said he expects Dell to enjoy more success.

“The heart of the new product family is the PowerEdge M1000e enclosure,” said Haff. “Dell went with a slightly higher cost enclosure to attain better power efficiency.”

This 10U chassis can hold a maximum of 16 dual-socket blades. It comes with better management and controls that make it easier to monitor and configure blades, as well as better hot plug features and redundant fans and power supplies.

“The PowerEdge M1000e, a 10U-sized enclosure, supports 16 blade servers,” said Armando Acosta, PowerEdge senior product line manager. “It is optimized for Dell’s PowerEdge M Series blade servers that support up to 2 quad-core Intel Xeon and quad-core AMD Opteron processors. These blades are 60 percent more dense than standard 1U servers, helping customers to better address data center space constraints.”

Both Dell blades are 1U models, and both are dual socket. The M600 is the Intel model. It comes with a choice of either dual- or quad-core processors. It has up to 64 GB of RAM and up to two 2.5 inch SAS or SATA drives (in a RAID 1 configuration). The M605 has similar specs, but it is an AMD-based blade available with 2 dual-core or quad-core AMD Opteron processors.

“The PowerEdge M605 offers AMD’s new quad-core processors, supporting Dell’s strategy to drive more complete and cost-effective enterprise technologies across various customer environments,” said Acosta. “Equipped with quad-core AMD Opteron processors, Dell’s 2-socket M605 can deliver up to 79 percent better performance compared to the same servers operating with dual-core AMD Opteron.”

On the management side, Dell OpenManage is used to remotely manage multiple blade enclosures. Its management features, however, are somewhat basic compared to the offerings of its rivals. Perhaps aware of this, Dell highlights ease of operation as an advantage of its slimmed down approach.

“There’s much about the Dell M Series launch that’s practical — from simple but straightforward management to narrowly focusing on the volume sweet-spot of dual-socket server blades,” said Haff.

While the M Series may not beat blades from HP (Palo Alto, Calif.) or IBM (Armonk, N.Y.) in terms of management bells and whistles, Dell claims it has a superior offering in an area both of its rivals have been pushing heavily — power and cooling.

“Built on Dell’s Energy Smart technologies, the PowerEdge M-Series enables businesses to save on power and cooling costs while increasing server capacity,” said Acosta. “The PowerEdge 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.”

Dell’s Energy Smart initiative is found on engineering its products for energy efficiency and vendor partnerships. As well as chip vendors AMD and Intel, this includes relationships with power cooling specialists like Liebert, APC and Rittal.

Another area where Dell has sought to gain an edge is scalability. According to Acosta, the PowerEdge M-Series is the only blade solution providing snap-in scalability all the way down to the switch interconnects. For those wanting to use Fibre Channel, for example, the enclosure comes with a Brocade 4 Gbps switch and a lower-cost Brocade port aggregator. This is courtesy of Dell FlexIO.

FlexIO technology seeks to eliminate the need for “rip-and-replace” upgrades. The enclosure design enables IT organizations to scale its switches on-demand via a series of different I/O slots and switch options that facilitate the use of a variety of I/O arrangements.

“With FlexIO switch technology, customers can efficiently design a networked blade environment that best meets their infrastructure requirements,” said Acosta. “They can easily and cost effectively add or modify network stacking and uplink capabilities as technology or business needs change.”

Pricing for the M1000e blade enclosure starts at $5,999, while each blade (the M600 and M650) is priced starting at $1,849. According to Acosta, target markets are data centers and remote offices requiring maximum density, redundancy, energy efficiency and high performance.

“This is Dell’s best effort yet in blades,” said Haff “It’s arguably the first time that we’ve seen the right alignment between Dell’s mainstream comfort zone and what’s needed to bring a competitive blade offering to market.”

The Dell M Series Close Up

Name PowerEdge M600 PowerEdge M605 The PowerEdge Mseries Chassis
The PowerEdge Mseries Chassis
Source: Dell
Vendor Dell Dell
Platform x86 x86
Dimensions 1U 1U
Processor Details Up to 2 dual-core or quad-core Intel Xeon 5000 processors Up to 2 quad-core AMD Opteron 2300 processors or dual-core AMD Opteron 2000 processors
Hard Drives Up to 300 GB (2x 146 GB hot-plug SAS drives) Up to 300 GB (2 x 146 GB hot-plug SAS drives)
Operating Systems Windows and Linux Windows and Linux
Configuration Options Starting at $1,249 for an Intel quad-core processor, 1GB RAM and a 73GB SAS drive
Priced at $7,045 for 2 Intel quad-core processors, 32 GB RAM and 2x146GB SAS drives
Starting at $1,149, 1 AMD quad-core processor, 1GB RAM and a 73GB SAS drive
Priced at $5,156, 2 AMD quad-core processors, 32GB RAM and 2x146GB SAS drives
Availability Now Available Now Available
Warranty 3 years 3 years

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