Dell Unveils Opteron-Based Servers

The system maker introduces new hardware at OpenWorld, and says it will also integrate Oracle Enterprise Manager into its OpenManage suite.

After years of speculation—and five months after confirming what many saw as inevitable—Dell is ready to join the Opteron fold.

The Round Rock, Texas, company, which for the past three years stuck by Intel as its sole chip vendor even as Advanced Micro Devices gained market share thanks to its Opteron processor, will introduce on Oct. 23 the first of its AMD-based servers.

At the Oracle OpenWorld show in San Francisco, Dell executives will unveil the four-socket PowerEdge 6950 and the two-socket, 1U (1.75-inch) SC1435, the first of what Dell said will be a growing line of Opteron-powered systems.

Founder and Chairman Michael Dell will give a keynote address at the conference.

"Its safe to assume that these are not point products," said Jay Parker, director of worldwide marketing for Dells PowerEdge servers. "The AMD-Dell relationship … will only expand over time."

In addition to the new hardware, Dell will announce that it is integrating Oracles Enterprise Manager tool into its OpenManage system management suite, Parker said.

That will enable users to monitor and manage their Oracle databases from the same console that they use to handle their Dell hardware. Its similar to what Dell has done with other software offerings, such as Altris and Microsoft products, Parker said.

For awhile, AMD, of Sunnyvale, Calif., was an also-ran in an x86 processor market that was dominated by Intel. However, in 2003 AMD introduced Opteron, a processor that could run both 32- and 64-bit x86 applications, and began to see steady market-share growth.

It drove Intel—which until then had offered Itanium as the only 64-bit processor—to change gears by adding 64-bit capabilities to its Xeon chips.

AMD has since beaten Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., to such milestones as dual-core technology and in making energy efficiency a selling point. Though Intel this year has made strides in catching up with a totally revamped server processor lineup. It also is the first among the two rivals to introduce quad-core chips.

Still, AMD has been able to continue growing its market share, with Opteron garnering 25.9 percent of the x86 server market in the second quarter, the chip maker said, quoting Mercury Research.

Over the past three years, the other three top-tier server makers—Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Sun Microsystems—all adopted Opteron, leaving Dell as the only holdout.

That ended in May when Dell announced it would begin selling AMD-based servers and, later, PCs.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read about how HP and Dell are battling for the top PC spot.

Dell officials have said that they want to be the leader among hardware vendors in providing not only price-performance but performance-per-watt, and Parker said the new AMD systems will be a step in that direction.

Customers can order the new systems now, and they will start shipping in mid-November, he said.

Clay Ryder, an analyst with the Sageza Group, said the adoption of AMD technology will help Dell satisfy a growing demand among its installed base, but questioned whether it would convince users to switch to Dell from another vendor.

"Primarily, for those who always buy Dell, [the addition of AMD] will allow them to buy something they couldnt before," said Ryder, in Union City, Calif. "It was a recognition [by Dell] that they were leaving a lot of money on the table."

A lot of 64-bit business has gone by already, he said. For those interested in pure 64-bit computing who were dissatisfied with Intels Xeon chips, by this time they probably already have bought Opteron servers.

"The fact that its taken this long [for Dell to offer AMD systems] is not a big deal, but it does serve as an illustration that Opteron has gone mainstream," Ryder said.

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