Dell takes second shot at blades

Two years after launching its first blade server, Dell Inc. on Monday is set to launch a follow-up product: the PowerEdge 855, a server based on Intel Corp.’s Xeon microprocessor.

The new blades will slide into a new 7U (31 cm) chassis, designed by Dell, that will house as many as 10 of the dual-processor servers and has been designed to accommodate the emerging 10-Gigabit Ethernet networking technology as well as the power requirements of Intel’s next generation of Xeon processors, which are expected to emerge in 2005, said Bruce Kornfeld, Dell’s director of worldwide enterprise marketing.

The extremely dense blade design, which lets systems share common networking, power and cooling components, will allow users to squeeze as many as 62 per cent more servers into their data centre racks, when compared with Dell’s rack-mounted 1U (4.4 cm) PowerEdge 1850 server, Kornfeld said.

Though his company has not yet taken possession of Dell’s new servers, Darrin Hyrup, director of operations with Mythic Entertainment Inc., said the 1855 appears to be powerful enough to be a viable alternative to rack systems, said

With almost all of the space in its data center currently being used, the company is looking to blades as a way to enhance performance. “This will allow us to expand our services without having to buy a lot more real estate,” he said.

Mythic, the creator of the online role-playing game Dark Age of Camelot, expects to standardize on a blade architecture in time for its next major title, Imperator, expected in 2006.

While blades have always taken up less space than rack-mounted servers, the extreme density of the blade architecture has forced some blade designs to use cooler, less powerful processors than did rack systems. The 1855, however, uses the same processor as the its 1U rack counterpart. “We were waiting for the technology to mature,” Hyrup said. “Up until recently, we weren’t sure we were going to get the performance and space gains we had wanted.”

Mythic is also interested in evaluating a low-power version of the 1855, which is expected within a few months, Hyrup said. He expects the new blade to have significantly lower power requirements than the 1855, which draws approximately 15 percent less power than the 1850.

One major issue for Dell customers, however, is the fact that the new blade chassis does not yet support switching technology from Cisco Systems Inc., said John Enck, a research vice-president at Gartner Inc., in Stamford, Conn. Support for this technology is expected in early 2005, but until that time it may make these systems less appealing to enterprise customers, who would have to do more work to integrate the systems into their Cisco environments, Enck said.

“What you’d pretty much have to do today is cable everything to the blade, which pretty much bypasses one of the major value propositions of blades,” he said.

Available as of Monday, the PowerEdge 1855 chassis will start at US$2,999. Blade servers will start at $1,699.

Related Articles:

HP clears desktop space with blade PCs, (April 27, 2004)

Power’s the thing at Server Blade Summit, (March 11, 2004)

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