Dell goes dual-core for blade servers

Blade server technology may still be a small market, but Dell Inc. sees it another way.

“Blades represent the largest category growth rate. The right feature set and price can drive them to be a volume platform,” said Tim Golden, director of PowerEdge servers enterprise world-wide marketing for Round Rock, Tex.-based Dell.

With the blade server market growing, so is Dell’s footprint in the area. The company entered the market 2.5 years ago, but pulled out when the technology wasn’t delivering on what it promised.

“Blades were supposed to save money, reduce heat cost and consolidate data centre space,” said Deb Jensen, vice-president for Canadian Advanced Systems Group for Dell Canada. But that wasn’t happening, she added.

The company re-entered the blade server market last November with the PowerEdge server. And two months ago Dell introduced multi-core technology to its portfolio of dual-core socket servers, based on open standards.

“Part of the reason why dual-core came out is that you can only go as fast as you can in a single core chip set because of heat constraints,” Jensen said.

The Dell PowerEdge 1850, 2800, 2850 and 1855 dual-socket blade servers incorporate dual-core Intel Xeon processors. Golden added in about a month dual-core will be available in the four-socket market.

“Dual-core is very important because the traditional way to get more processing power is to increase the clock speed. The problem with this approach is it was getting to the point where the heat emitting from the processor was akin to the surface of sun,” said Golden.

Moving to multi-core, he added, one can keep the same trajectory of processing power, while consuming less power and emitting less heat, which has been problematic in data centres.

Alliance Atlantis in Toronto replaced about 50 servers in its data centres with PowerEdge 1850 blade servers earlier this year due to expiring warranties and aging technologies. Jeff Stein, the specialty broadcaster’s manager of systems infrastructure, was also concerned with the amount of space the old servers occupied.

Since moving over to blades, not only has space been freed up, but the company saw a reduction in deployment time for set-ups and a lower number of standard build images. The blades also led to an increase in remote management functionality.

“When Dell came to market, it was an easy decision. We wanted to standardize…dealing with one common platform makes support a lot easier and building a relationship with one vendor was a key,” Stein said.

Blade servers with dual-core technology, said Jensen, can go up to 53 per cent faster without generating more heat and without doubling the cost.

While Alliance Atlantis’ environment is currently single-core, Stein said was taking a serious look at dual-core blade servers to replace the current single-core blades.

“It is a no-brainer going forward…with the advantages of power consumption and increased performance, it helps with our server consolidation efforts,” Stein said.

Michelle Warren, IT industry analyst with Evans Research Group in Toronto, said it’s the power consumption savings with dual-core that is a key differentiator for blade servers.

“Power consumption is a growing concern to Canadians and the world as we go forward. It is a growing priority and it’s on a lot of radars from manufacturers and government,” she said.

In addition to adding dual-core to its blades, Dell has also incorporated services to help companies migrate to a multi-core environment.

“Because of this power problem, we came out with a new data assessment [service], where we go into a customer’s data centre with thermal imagery and take pictures of what the environment looks like. We identify hot spots and help them reconfigure their lab for optimal performance where hot spots are,” said Golden.

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