Dell EMC Rolls Out Modular PowerEdge MX Server

The new flexible data center system is a key component of the vendor’s larger Kinetic Infrastructure composable infrastructure strategy.

Dell EMC Kinetic

Dell EMC officials at the Dell Technologies World show in May, while rolling out a broad array of new products and services, hinted at an upcoming modular system called the PowerEdge MX that would run modern workloads and be a foundation of the company’s composable infrastructure strategy.

The PowerEdge MX, which is armed with emerging technologies like NVMe (non-volatile memory express) and is designed to be able to adapt to changes in the compute landscape, is being introduced this week and will be generally available Sept. 12, company officials said Aug. 21. At a time when the focus in data centers is quickly shifting from compute to data, the PowerEdge MX offers enterprises the flexibility to run a wide array of workloads and to easily provision resources as needed.

“How do you make sure you can run your workloads of today and your workloads of tomorrow?” Ravi Pendakenti, senior vice president of product management and marketing for server and infrastructure systems at Dell EMC, asked during a press conference before the announcement.

They key is composable infrastructure—which Dell EMC calls Kinetic Infrastructure—which calls for cloudlike environments where data center resources are brought together into a single pool that applications can draw from to run most quickly and efficiently. Once the task is accomplished, the resources are put back into the pool.

Other vendors, such as Cisco Systems, also are pushing strategies around composable infrastructure. Hewlett Packard Enterprise for the past couple of years has been building out its Synergy composable infrastructure portfolio, and a number of smaller companies—such as Liqid, TidalScale and HTBase—also are looking to gain traction in the nascent space. The goal is to enable organizations to more easily leverage the vast amounts of data being generated to improve their competitive standing.

It also is meant to enable enterprises to better run a growing range of modern workloads, including artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as well as predictive data analytics.

Dell EMC has been laying the groundwork for its Kinetic Infrastructure efforts. For example, at the show in May, the company rolled out the PowerMax enterprise storage system, which includes support for the NVMe protocol, designed to accelerate the performance of flash and other non-volatile memory. The company for the past two years has been equipping its servers with NVMe capabilities.

The PowerMX server is the latest addition to the Kinetic Infrastructure strategy. Key to its design is that it comes without a midplane, which means the system can adapt to any changes in technology that happen in the future. That includes changes in processor and GPU technologies and to storage and connectivity, which can be supported without having to upgrade a midplane. It’s an important step as data centers become much more software-defined and hardware is disaggregated from software, according to company officials.

Having no midplane also means the PowerMX can support fully disaggregated components, from memory-centric devices like storage-class memory (SCM) to GPUs and field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), which is a key part of a composable infrastructure.

“PowerEdge MX is designed to support a combination of dense virtualization, software-defined storage, software-defined networking, AI and big data projects,” Pendakenti wrote in a post on the company blog. “Users can tailor compute and storage configurations to their own requirements. This ‘on-the-fly’ hardware capacity helps reduce stranded assets and overprovisioning, greatly improving performance and efficiency.”

Dell EMC also is making available a number of components that will enable enterprises to customize the PowerEdge MX for their needs. That includes the 7U (8.75-inch) PowerEdge MX7000 chassis, which can support multiple generations of processors and single- and double-width compute and storage. In addition, the two-socket MX740c and four-socket MC840c blade sleds support compute and storage options, including NVMe drives and Intel’s Xeon Scalable Processor chips, and offer up to 6TB of memory.

The MX5016s storage sled holds up to six hot-pluggable SAS hard disks, and up to seven of the sleds can be housed in the MX chassis. The PowerEdge MX Ethernet and Fibre Channel switching modules offer high bandwidth and low latency. With the switching modules, the PowerEdge MX can offer 25 Gb/s of Ethernet and 32 Gb/s of Fibre Channel host connectivity as well as 100 Gigabit Ethernet and 32GB Fibre Channel uplinks.

The new server will be managed via the company’s OpenManage Enterprise—Modular Edition, which offers functions within the server chassis to support the entire environment.

The PowerMax will be on display at VMworld 2018 starting Aug. 26 in Las Vegas before it becomes generally available next month.