Dell PowerEdge 12G servers take aim at HP Proliant

SAN FRANCISCO – Dell Inc. is taking shots at rival Hewlett-Packard Co. in a further effort to reposition itself beyond its roots as a PC manufacturer by releasing its 12th generation blade, rack and tower PowerEdge servers along with native 10 Gigabit Ethernet support across its servers, storage and networking products.

The company gathered media, analysts and a few marquee customers here Monday to discuss how it is building upon its traditional hardware stack either developing or acquiring software capabilities around cloud computing, workload management, system management appliances, element management, managed security and consulting.

Michael Dell noted that in the last two years, Dell has bought 12 companies, which has been a way to accelerate its evolution from a direct seller of desktops. This includes networking company Force10, Kace and, last week, backup and recovery firm AppAssure. In that time, Dell has more than doubled the size of the enterprise, services and data centre units, which now represents about half the company’s profits.

“We’ve been on a mission to transform our business and it’s absolutely working,” he said.

Key features in Dell’s PowerEdge 12G servers include the second generation of the company’s embedded system management tools, which are designed to help IT departments more easily deploy, monitor and manage the lifecycle of enterprise infrastructure. Michael Dell mentioned “another company not far from here, with a few less letters in its name than we have,” which released its own server refresh recently. This was a reference to HP, which launched an updated HP Proliant x86 Gen8 server line that boasted significant automation.

“They talked about 150 so-called innovations. We were kind of looking over the list of so-called innovations, and some of them looked really familiar,” Dell said. “A huge number of those were already in our eleventh generation servers in 2009, and some were from a few generations before.”

While HP’s Proliant now have embedded lifecycle management, for example, Dell pointed out that his company has been doing this for three years inside PowerEdge. Three and a half million Dell servers delivered with this capability today, and the second generation will provide major advantages for customers, according to the CEO. “The pace of innovation is a little different for some companies than others,” he said.

Potential early adopters of the Dell PowerEdge 12G line include the Texas Advanced Computing Center (TACC) at the University of Texas in Austin. TACC’s big projects include Stampede, a 10 petaflop high-performance computing system it plans to launch within the next 11 months.

“We are evaluating and are very excited about the architectural improvements,” said Jay Boisseau, TACC’s director, estimating that the infrastructure could potentially offer two times the performance on TACC’s scientific applications. “That’s huge for us. For our researchers that means not only applications that run twice as fast, but being able to quickly solve problems that are twice as large.”

Other Dell PowerEdge 12G features include Dell Express Flash, a hot-swappable PCIe solid state disks that connect directly to the machine. This means a boost of more than 10 times more transactions across Microsoft SQL Server than HDD storage, according to Dell, and 28 times quicker queries on Oracle databases through the Dell CachCade data accelerator.

Besides the hardware, Dell waded into the burgeoning market for “big data” products and services with the Dell QuickStart data warehouse appliance, aimed at mid-market customers which will work with the 12G PowerEdge servers and offer data integration through Dell Boomi.

Praveen Asthana, Dell’s vice-president of enterprise solutions and strategy, said customers will be able to start getting insight from QuickStart within 30 minutes of setup.

“Infrastructure is important, but you have to talk about applications. That’s what your customers are talking about all the time,” he said. “We have always been strong in file and print, HPC applications. But increasingly we are moving into higher-order, more mission-critical areas: database, BI.”

While Dell is working on several products that will work with Hadoop, not all big data projects will be based on a platform of that magnitude, Asthana said. “We don’t think about big data, we think about big insights. You can get a lot of insight for a small amount of data,” he said.

Other Dell products launched Monday include EqualLogic PS6110 Series and PS4110 Series storage arrays and vStart, a set of pre-built infrastructure to help customers set up a private cloud environment.

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