Dell will expand its partnership with storage supplier EMC by supporting EMC subsidiary VMware's ESX Server, VMotion and VirtualCenter Management Server software on certain configurations of Dell's server and storage systems.
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Dell customers will be able to purchase pre-tested two- and four-processor configurations of the PowerEdge 6650 server with either the Clariion CX300 or CX500 storage systems running the software.
Dell will also handle the first level of support calls for the VMware products, with more complex level 2 and level 3 support calls still being handled by VMware.
"We think this hits the sweet spot of a configuration that most Dell customers can implement most quickly," said Mike Mullany, the vice-president of marketing with VMware.
VMware makes virtualisation software that allows one application to run on a large number of servers. VMware's software can also let one physical server operate many different "virtual" operating systems at the same time.
The partnership helps Dell compete with companies such as Hewlett-Packard and IBM, which have sizable in-house software development teams and are pushing software virtualisation as an important component of their hardware strategies.
"It's really very important to Dell to put together these relatively deep partnerships in software because Dell has essentially no assets of its own and really no intention of developing assets of its own," said Gordon Haff, an analyst with Illuminata.
Dell will now compete with Microsoft's upcoming Virtual Server 2004.
"Dell apparently does not intend to be exclusively locked into Microsoft as a management software partner, but is looking at other players as well," Haff said.
Microsoft began sending out beta copies of Virtual Server 2004 to testers last month. The company expects to begin shipping the product, which is based on software Microsoft acquired from Connectix by the middle of the year.
At present, Dell sells, but does not support the smaller-scale version of VMware's virtualisation software, called GSX Server, that is expected to compete with Virtual Server 2004, Mullany said.
"[Dell] resells GSX Server, but it's not considered as strategic for them," he said.
A supported two-processor PowerEdge 6650 server with ESX Server can be purchased from Dell for $30,579.
Robert McMillan writes for IDG News Service