NEW YORK—After climbing to the top of the PC market last year, Dell Computer Corp. is now setting its sight on the enterprise computing space.
At a press conference here Wednesday morning, Dell executives unveiled the companys first high-density "blade" server and two other Intel Corp.-based high-end application servers, the first in a series of planned rollouts that later will include additional blade and "brick" servers, which offer multi-CPU capable servers that customers will be able to expand as their business needs grow.
Dell also introduced enhancements to its server management suite, and said it was working with Microsoft Corp. to develop high-performance Infiniband interconnecting technology for networking devices, including servers and storage products. Executives said the plan is to incorporate Infiniband technology into its upcoming brick server architecture.
The thrust of the moves, according to President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Rollins, is increasing flexibility through open standards and a modular architecture to enable customers to build as they grow.
According to Randy Groves, vice president of Dells Enterprise Systems Group, the PowerEdge 1655MC blade server architecture can bundle up to up to two Intel Pentium III processors per blade, and incorporate 84 blades and 168 processors in a standard rack. That is more than twice as many servers than can be housed in a standard 1U rack, Groves said.
The new PowerEdge 6600 and 6650 application servers are armed with Intel Xeon chips and are targeted at businesses that demand a lot of computing power, primarily corporate data centers.
Dells entrance into the blade server market follows similar moves in recent months by rivals such as Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., and Houston-based Compaq Computer Corp. both of which have introduced blade servers.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is reselling blades from RLX Technologies Inc.
Ultradense blade technology had a high profile last year, with their promise of being able to house hundreds of blade servers in a single 1U rack and consume less power than traditional servers. But customers questioned their ability to meet corporate demands—RLX, of The Woodlands, Texas, initially used Transmeta Crusoe chips that had been designed for mobile devices—and as the economy struggled, shied away from betting on new, untested technology.
However, Intel came out with a processor and chip sets designed for ultradense servers, and major computer makers began incorporating them in their blade designs. RLX earlier this year said it would also use Intel chips in its new ServerBlade 800i technology. However, executives said Transmeta processors will still be used in some RLX products.
Groves said Dell is not yet crossing into the ultradense blade market, which he said was characterized by the smaller mobile chips. Instead, the company is aiming at blade servers that can handle high-demand enterprise applications. However, he said there is a growing market for ultradense servers and predicted that Dell would bring out servers for it at a later date.
Rollins said blade servers accounted for about 1 percent of server units shipped last year, and that it could be a year or two before the market takes off. International Data Corp., of Framingham, Mass., has predicted the blade market will reach $2.9 billion by 2005.
In an interview after the press conference, Linda Hargrove, vice president of Dells server group, said Dell may have made its entrance into the blade market after HP and Compaq, but that it isnt late to the game.
"Customer demand hasnt yet started," Hargrove said. She added that Dell has tried to buy blade servers from an unnamed competitor, but, "we havent seen it, so maybe they got their announcement out first, but I dont know if theyre ahead as far as producing a product."
The PowerEdge 1655 is a 3U (5.25 inches) enclosure that includes up to 2 GB of memory. Groves said the server will be available in the third quarter this year and will support Windows 2000 and Red Hat Linux operating systems.
The two new application servers both support up to four Xeon chips and will be available next month, with pricing ranging from $5,199 to $5,499.
Groves said Dell expects to begin shipping some brick server products later this year, with full rollout of products in early 2003.
The enhanced OpenManage software includes remote deployment and management capabilities, remote access and BIOS and firmware updates. Also, the new OpenManage Server Administrator gives users even more advanced remote management capabilities, Grove said. The software is available immediately.