AUSTIN, Texas—Dell is leveraging the high-end server features found in its latest-generation PowerEdge servers in a new, highly dense converged infrastructure that is designed to offer customers the flexibility needed to manage the fast-changing workloads driven by such trends as mobility, big data, cloud computing and the Internet of things.
Dell officials announced the PowerEdge FX architecture at the Dell World 2014 show here Nov. 5, though CEO Michael Dell teased it during his press conference the night before, saying it offers higher density than any other such solution on the market.
The PowerEdge FX offerings, which will be available in December, also fit with a larger industry push for infrastructure offerings that are more highly optimized for specific data center workloads. The PowerEdge FX solution can run a mix of Intel-based server, storage and networking products within its 2U (3.5-inch) enclosure. In addition, Dell officials noted the broad array of third-party software from such vendors as Microsoft and VMware that can run atop the hardware.
Combined, the flexibility in hardware and software enables businesses to customize the architecture to fit whatever applications they need to run based on such metrics as performance and density, Ashley Gorakhpurwalla, general manager of server solutions at Dell, said during a presentation here.
“This will allow us to make this architecture [adaptable] to our customers’ worlds,” Gorakhpurwalla said.
For example, for highly virtualized workloads, the solution can include Dell’s PowerEdge FC630, four of which can fit into an FX2 enclosure. Meanwhile, for high-performance computing (HPC) workloads, businesses can opt for FC430 servers—eight of which can fit into an enclosure. There also are FM120x4 servers—based on Intel’s low-power Atom processor—for Web serving jobs, while the PowerEdge FC830 systems are used for database workloads.
The server, networking and storage—which share such features as power and cooling–are offered up in “sled” modules that slip in and out of the chassis and are populated with what the customer needs. Businesses also have a choice of management options, with different levels of automation. There also are eight PCI Express slots, giving users connectivity options. The system can leverage hard drives or solid-state drives (SSDs).
The solutions also are designed for easier scalability, according to Dell officials. If a business needs to grow the environment more, they can add more modules.
The PowerEdge FX architecture joins a crowded field of converged and modular offerings, from Hewlett-Packard’s low-power ProLiant Moonshot servers and Oracle’s highly integrated solutions—such as Exadata and Exalogic—to Cisco Systems’ Unified Computing Systems (UCS) and VCE’s Vblocks. Dell itself has its share of converged offerings, including VRTX (launched last year), Dell XC (powered by Nutanix and rolled out in June; Dell announced general availability Nov.5) and Dell’s partnership with VMware and its EVO: Rail offering (announced in August).
Dell Unveils Highly Dense, Optimized Converged Architecture
However, Dell officials argue that the density offered by FX and the architecture’s ability to be optimized for myriad workloads differentiates it from other offerings. Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT, agreed.
“The density of it is interesting,” King told eWEEK, noting that customers can squeeze up to 16 servers and 128 cores into a single enclosure. “The sheer flexibility of it is also interesting.”
It’s also a good solution for Dell’s increasingly important channel partners, he said. Michael Dell said the company derives as much as 40 percent of its revenues from direct sales, and King said many businesses would prefer to work through the channel rather than directly with an OEM. However, most converged solutions are put together by the system makers in their factories and shipped directly to users.
The high levels of optimization and customization available in the PowerEdge FX make it a solution that adds value to resellers, he said.
Christian Perry, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said Dell getting into the highly modular solution space was a smart move for the company, given the business opportunity and the similar move made by some competitors.
“It’s a place they have to get into, especially with all the hyper-converged system players” already in the market, Perry told eWEEK.
Along with the PowerEdge FX solution, Dell officials also announced new storage offerings, including all-flash enterprise arrays that are priced in the hard-drive range, reducing a key hurdle for SSD adoption. The SC4020 Entry-Level All-Flash configuration gives customers improved performance over spinning disks at a starting price of $25,000. Dell also is offering Flash-Optimized Solutions include all-flash storage that can be complemented with one or more tiers of spinning disk added into the same array.
The PS4210 Series of arrays are the first in Dell’s PS series to offer a hybrid flash-and-HDD model, and are aimed at SMBs.