Dell’s new blade architecture is ready for prime time.
The Round Rock, Texas, company is announcing Jan. 21 that after much rumor and speculation, its new blade architecture will now be available to customers starting this month. In addition to new blades, Dell will be offering a new 10U (17.5-inch) PowerEdge M1000e chassis that can hold up to 16 of the company’s new “half-height,” dual-socket blade servers.
It’s the first time in several years that Dell has offered a new blade architecture for customers. In that time, Hewlett-Packard has soared to become the leader of this particular market, controlling about 42 percent of all worldwide blade revenue in the third quarter of 2007, according to the latest market report from IDC.
For the first time, revenue from blade shipments exceeded $1 billion in the third quarter of 2007, which might account for one reason why Dell decided to rejuvenate its hardware. Rick Becker, vice president for the Dell Product Group, told eWEEK that he believes the company has made tremendous strides in improving the power and cooling efficiency of its blades compared with previous generations.
These improvements include nine hot-pluggable, redundant fans for the chassis that use less power, while allowing the system to use the least amount of fresh air possible to cool the chassis. The enclosure also includes a total of nine power supplies and technology that allows the system to place lightly loaded power supplies into standby, which increases energy efficiency.
In addition, Dell has incorporated its OpenManage software into the new PowerEdge M series, which Becker said will help reduce the complexity of controlling the system and allows for remote management. These developments are also part of Dell’s “Simplify IT” initiative that CEO Michael Dell announced last year.
“What we are seeing these new blades used for are very dense deployments, where power and cooling are major issues and customers need a very specific blade solution,” Becker said, adding that Dell is still dedicated to its standard rack-mounted servers.
“We are very committed to blades when they are the right answers to the right problems,” Becker added. “This is all very much part of a complete data center solution, and we see the M series as a way to address problems ranging from virtualization to power management, and we believe that we have leaped past anything the competition has to offer.”
The M1000e chassis supports a number of different networking options, including Ethernet, Fibre Channel and Infiniband. Dell is also introducing a new feature called “Flex I/O,” which allows users to scale the system and add bandwidth as needed.
Strides in Power, Cooling
Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said that while Dell does not have the blade experience of an HP or IBM-Sun Microsystems introduced a new blade architecture last year that included Intel processors-it has made some significant strides in the power and cooling offerings. In addition, he said Dell has made the blades and chassis simple to assemble and install.
“It seems that they have taken a very aggressive stance toward power and cooling, and it’s a big plus for them to offer a highly efficient system, and I suspect that it will resonate in the marketplace,” King said.
Less impressed with Dell’s new blade offerings is Mark Potter, HP’s vice president for Industry Standard Servers, who said that while Dell might be in the blade market now, it does not have the level of support and services that HP provides with its blades. As for cooling and power, Potter said HP looks at all the elements that go into a data center, from the chassis to the rack to entire room, not just individual systems.
King said HP’s counterargument does not reflect the type of company Dell has begun to turn into, which includes investing more in services and data center management.
In addition to the new chassis, Dell is offering two new blade systems. The PowerEdge M600 blade server supports a number of dual- and quad-core Intel Xeon processors, including the new Xeon X5460, which offers a 3.16GHz clock speed, a total of 12MB of L2 cache and a 1333MHz front-side bus.
The PowerEdge M605 is based on Advanced Micro Devices’ dual-core processors, including the Opteron 2222 SE model, which has a clock speed of 3.0GHz and 2MB of L2 cache. Later, Dell will include quad-core Opteron processors with the system.
The two new blades support up to 64GB of DDR2 (double data rate) RAM. They also offer a choice of either two 2.5-inch SAS (serial-attached SCSI) or SATA (Serial ATA) hard drives, and two optional PCI Express mezzanine cards. In addition, the new blades support Windows Server 2003, as well as Red Hat and Novell’s SUSE Linux. Dell is also supporting the 3.5 version of VMware’s ESX hypervisor for virtualization.
The chassis has a starting price of $5,999, and the blades both start at $1,894, according to Dell.