Dell Refreshes Most of Its Data Center Wares

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2010-06-09

Dell Refreshes Most of Its Data Center Wares

Dell, keeping a literal open mind about all things data center, June 9 introduced a bevy of new open-standards servers, storage and networking equipment for older enterprise IT systems that might need refreshing.

The Round Rock, Texas-based hardware and software maker unveiled two new Dell EqualLogic storage arrays, two PowerVault storage arrays, two PowerEdge blade servers, a PowerEdge rack-mount server, and a new series of Juniper Networks-built PowerConnect switching/routing gateways.

A list of new storage, server, virtualization and support services also were made available for all of the above.

All the new hardware is built upon open industry standards, so it plays well with many other brands of middleware, firmware, and hardware in the data center, Dell enterprise strategist Matt Baker told eWEEK.

In its own way, Dell is placing a stake in the ground to compete with a so-called "unified" and virtualized computing system recently put out by the Cisco Systems-EMC-VMware-BMC partnership. Oracle, with its newly acquired data center hardware and software from Sun Microsystems, also has a unified computing package, although the company doesn't brand it exactly that way.

Hewlett-Packard and IBM have long had all these components -- either in their own catalogs or through myriad standing partnerships. They, too, choose not to use the "unified" moniker, staying instead with calling them "virtualized" systems.

Back to Dell. The company is also preconfiguring six of the new systems for specific vertical markets, such as health care, retail, financial services and others.

"Most of these business-ready configuration that we're releasing now are about virtual deployments, so we're really providing blueprints or reference architectures for how people will be using Dell servers, storage and networking together," Travis Vigil, a senior product manager responsible for the EqualLogic product line, told eWEEK.

Virtualization tends to complicate a lot of deployments, to say the least, so any help the parent company can offer in the way of suggested usage is most often welcomed -- especially at the mid-range market level, where a good many of Dell's customers reside.

The six Dell Business Ready Configurations bring together selected server, storage, networking, and virtualization components in pre-configured and Dell-validated bundles for fast deployments, Vigil said. These packages integrate into a customer's existing infrastructure through either the VMware ESX or Microsoft Hyper-v hypervisors.

The new Dell EqualLogic PS6000XVS and PS6010XVS storage arrays combine SAS and SSD [solid-state disk] drives inside a single enclosure to provide improved I/O and application performance. Systems using the new EqualLogic 5.0 firmware can now utilize automated data tiering within the new arrays, Vigil said.

Improvements in the Dell EqualLogic software architecture has upgraded the performance and scalability of EqualLogic storage arrays -- at no additional cost to new or existing EqualLogic customers, Vigil said. Using the new firmware, VMware infrastructures can reduce SAN network traffic for the copy process by more than 95 percent and CPU utilization for the copy process by over 75 percent, Vigil said.

The EqualLogic 5.0 firmware will support future developments of the VMware vStorage initiative, he said.

The new PowerVault MD3200 and PowerVault MD3200i storage arrays are aimed at small-to-medium-sized businesses looking for an affordable, high performance virtualization platform, Vigil said. The MD3200 series features about twice the performance, host support and capacity scalability over the previous generation, he said.

Plenty Happening on the Server Side

In the server arena, Dell is looking to give customers greater choices as they look to transform their data centers, according to Brian Payne, director of server product management at Dell.
"We're looking at ... how we can help our customers make the leap into the virtualized world in a very efficient way," Payne said in an interview with eWEEK.
Blades will be a key to this transformation, he said. They help businesses reduce operation, capital, and power and cooling costs, and improve management and resource utilization capabilities.
Dell introduces two new PowerEdge blades, the PowerEdge M710HD for virtual workloads, and the M610x, which can support Nvidia's new Tesla "Fermi" GPUs (graphics processing units) and Fusion-IOs ioDrive Duo SSDs (solid-state drives). GPUs from Nvidia and Advanced Micro Devices' ATI graphics business are gaining traction in some general-purpose computing environments, promising high computational power at a fraction of the cost of traditional CPUs.
The M710HD is designed for virtual workloads through its flexibility in I/O options, Intel processors, support for up to 18 memory DIMMs in a half-height form factor, hot-swappable SAS or SSD drive options and support for Fail Safe redundant embedded hypervisors. Payne said that traditionally, servers that offer large memory capacity tend to compromise on other aspects, such as reliability. This new Dell server doesn't, he said.
"We can't leave anything behind," Payne said.
In addition, Dell is offering a 2U (3.5-inch) rack server, the PowerEdge R715, powered by AMD's eight- to 12-core Opteron 6000 series "Magny-Cours" processors. The goal of the system is to balance 24 processing cores with a large memory footprint to offer high price/performance ratios. The system is aimed at such tasks as workload consolidation, virtualization and smaller database and network infrastructure deployments.
Dell also has improved the M1000e chassis with new power supplies, ultra-efficient fans, and bare-metal chassis management tools to improve the blade systems' energy efficiency and performance-per-watt capabilities.
Systems management software improvements include updates to Lifecycle Controller, Chassis Management Controller and Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller, with all upgrades designed to streamline ongoing maintenance issues. LifeCycle Controller now can automatically configure new parts with settings and firmware of prior components, while a new GUI for Chassis Management Controller includes a homepage that simplifies many administrative tasks.
"Everything we're doing related to the management of the infrastructure and blades ... is focused on saving time and ultimately manpower needed to manage the infrastructure," Payne said.

Networking products through Juniper Networks and Brocade

Dell rolled out the new PowerConnect-J series of gateway-type machines, the first through Dell's OEM agreement with Juniper. The PowerConnect J-Series [J is for Juniper] EX8200 product line provides a new scalable chassis for high-performance switching and routing in data center and cloud environments.

The J-Series EX4200 line of switches -- aimed at smaller data center and corporate branch offices -- uses Virtual Chassis software to stack and manage up to 10 of these switches as a single virtual device, if needed.

The PowerConnect J-Series SRX family of Service Gateway products target a range of security needs, including content security, access control and state-of-the-art firewall and virtual private network (VPN) technology, Dell said.

Dell's OEM partnership with Brocade has spawned the PowerConnect B-Series [B is for Brocade] RX-16, which  extends the current line of PowerConnect B-RX chassis switches with a 16-slot, modular chassis for networks with 10GbE requirements.

Finally, Dell's new PowerConnect 8024 Ethernet switch features 24 ports of 10GBASE-T and includes Layer 3 routing for data center, aggregation and unified fabric deployments, Dell said.

The PowerVault arrays will become available later this month. All the rest of the new products become available either in July or August.

eWEEK Senior Editor Jeff Burt contributed to this story.

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