Dell Beefs Up Virtualization, Server and Storage Offerings

In the week leading up to VMworld, Dell is launching new virtualization, storage and server systems that look to expand Dell's reach into the virtualized data center. In addition to new Dell PowerEdge M905 and M805 blade servers and PS5500E storage array, Dell is offering expanded support for Microsoft Hyper-V, Citrix XenServer and VMware ESX.

Dell is rolling out an assortment of virtualization offerings, along with new server and storage systems, that the PC vendor believes will boost its ability to offer hardware, software and services for the virtualized data center.

Dell is launching its new virtualization initiative Sept. 10, just a few days before the start of the 2008 VMworld conference in Las Vegas, which promises to offer a showcase of where the technology of virtualization will head in the next year.

For Dell, the new offerings include a pair of blades-the two-socket PowerEdge M805 and the four-socket PowerEdge M905-which are based on Advanced Micro Devices processors and offer additional memory to support virtual machines. The M805 has 16 DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules), while the M905 offers 24 DIMM slots. Dell also plans to roll out a third system-the PowerEdge R900-a four-socket server that will offer Intel's upcoming six-core Dunnington processor and embedded hypervisors.

Dell noted that the PowerEdge M805 and the M905 are now optimized for virtualization and this will put the hardware in direct competition with Hewlett-Packard, the leading producer of blades, and IBM. HP and IBM already launched new virtualization optimized blades earlier this month.

On the storage side, Dell is rolling out a new piece of hardware to add to its EqualLogic line of iSCSI SAN (storage area network) arrays. The 4U (7-inch) PS5500E is for large SANs and holds up to 48 SATA (Serial ATA); each system can hold between 24TB and 48TB of data storage.

While the new server and storage hardware products are noteworthy, Dell is hoping to use those offerings as a backbone for a more comprehensive virtualization offering. In addition to the 3.5 version of the VMware ESX hypervisor and the 5.0 version of the Citrix XenServer product, Dell is also offering full support and services built around Microsoft's Hyper-V.

Microsoft outlined some new features for Hyper-V earlier this week, including a new relationship with Sun Microsystems.

In looking to integrate its EqualLogic iSCSI storage arrays with virtualization, Dell is supporting the virtual machine snapshot features found in both with VMware and Citrix virtualization suites with new storage arrays. This combination of virtual machine management and storage should make it easier to protect and store data that is moving within a virtual environment.

"One of the points of this is how to seamlessly protect the data you are generating and savings in those environments, and the issue of how you relate specific storage to virtual servers, which is not an easy task," said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research. "What Dell is doing is developing products for those specific tasks, and it also goes along with the concept of expanded choice that Dell is using. The fact that Dell is supporting both VMware and Citrix snapshot solutions on the newer array reinforces that as well."

Finally, Dell is also partnering with some smaller virtualization companies to fill in the various pieces needed to maintain and control these types of virtual environments within the data center.

In addition to storage, Dell is expanding its ability to offer life cycle management for virtual environments with help from companies such as Vizioncore and its vFoglight-formally vCharter Pro-product, which provides virtual machine performance monitoring. Dell is also offering to support PlateSpin products such as PowerRecon, which gives users the analytical tools needed to analyze their current data center setup and determine which servers can be phased out and which workloads can best be moved onto virtual machines.