Dell announces new enterprise server strategy

Dell Computer has announced a new enterprise strategy which will be reflected in a series of new blade products available from...

Dell Computer has announced a new enterprise strategy which will be reflected in a series of new blade products available from September.

"Underpinning [the new strategy] will be the enablement of standards-based systems and software," Dell president and chief operating officer Kevin Rollins told a group of customers, analysts and reporters.

Rollins said Dell is trying to move enterprise computing off what he called "proprietary" Unix-based, legacy systems, and on to Microsoft Windows or Linux-based operating systems. "Where others resist standardisation, we embrace it," he said.

The company will also begin to release new "brick" technology by the end of the year that will allow users to custom-configure their servers so they can, for example, add additional I/O or memory, depending on their application needs.

Although the new products support a modular approach to infrastructure, Dell is not completely bowing out of some higher-end server models.

Though the Dell blade servers lag several months behind the competition, the company hopes to lure new customers with what vice-president Terry Klein said is better performance in the PowerEdge 1655MC blade server.

Dell does not have customers already lined up to purchase the new blades but the company said it is basing its strategy on market trends that indicate customers want more use from their hardware. Blades can be attached to an existing chassis, saving on power supply equipment and space.

The hardware manufacturer also announced the availability of two new servers based upon Xeon chips from Intel - the PowerEdge 6600 and 6650, which will be available next month. Dell also said it has added remote capabilities on to its system management and provisioning software and announced an agreement with Microsoft to develop Infiniband technology with agreed-upon standards.

The 6600 and 6650 are specifically intended to support applications such as Microsoft's Exchange messaging platform, Oracle's 9i software and SAP's enterprise resource planning software, according to Randy Groves, vice-president of the enterprise server group at Dell.

Messaging, in particular, has created a need for better storage, Rollins said. Groves also said the modular technology and new provisioning software could help messaging administrators take advantage of slow times in the messaging system, such as at night, by reallocating processing capacity.

While Dell said there are plug-ins to other systems infrastructure products like Tivoli from IBM or OpenView from Hewlett-Packard, analyst Al Gillen at IDC in questioned the usefulness of such a product. "If you're using Tivoli, you probably don't need the Dell product at all," he said

Gillen said a company would probably use the Dell systems management software only if it was already running a system made up mostly of Dell products, "certainly not because it's best of breed".

Lance Osborne, a product marketing manager at Dell, said his group had not yet decided how to support Microsoft's Active Directory with its own provisioning software.

"We will obviously have to do it because Dell is committed to supporting Microsoft, and especially Exchange," he said. Exchange migrations account for a large percentage of Dell's consultancy revenue, according to Klein. (Exchange 2000 required Active Directory).

He also acknowledged that Dell's relationship with Microsoft on Infiniband is not as tight as it might seem, since the two companies have only agreed to base their development on each other's products, but are not pooling money or resources on the project.

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