Dell on Wednesday fired another round in its plan to get customers to migrate to its servers from IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems products for high-end data center and grid computing implementations.
The Round Rock, Texas-based hardware vendor unveiled two new servers, a software update, professional services and an Oracle competency center in Austin, Texas, as a new phase of its Project MegaGrid. The project, unveiled in December, is Dell's effort with Oracle and Intel to bring power and scalability to computer grids on inexpensive, industry-standard Intel x86-based servers running Oracle databases--a goal Dell has dubbed the "scalable enterprise."
"The scalable enterprise is important to Dell and the industry," said Jeff Clarke, senior vice president of Dell's enterprise products group, during a conference call Wednesday. "It is where the data center will evolve to over the next several years."
Dell's data center strategy focuses on low-cost clusters of two- and four-way systems that provide more efficiency and the same high performance as larger, higher-end systems from competitors. Its partnership with Oracle to provide servers optimized for Oracle's database and Real Application Clustering (RAC) software is a linchpin of that strategy.
Project MegaGrid also has something in it for Oracle, which has been trying to move downstream into the industry-standard, Linux-based server market. Oracle's database traditionally has run on big iron--that is, proprietary Unix systems from Sun and HP. However, Clarke said Dell's Oracle business has grown three times over the past three years, and 30 percent of those users are "individual customers" migrating from Unix-based systems to Oracle on Dell boxes.
Two new four-way Dell servers, the PowerEdge 6800 and 6850, are tuned for running Oracle databases, Clarke said. The servers are powered by recently released 64-bit Intel Xeon processors and are optimized for when Intel releases dual-core chips, which is expected early next year.
"These new servers are very high-end, data center-targeted and focused on [Oracle's] database," Clarke said. "We worked very closely with Oracle to optimize the performance of these servers for our customer needs."
The 6800 and 6850 currently are certified to run Oracle 10g and 9i databases in 32-bit mode on Windows and Linux, but Dell and Oracle plan to certify the new hardware for 64-bit mode over the next several months, said Charles Rozwat, executive vice president of Oracle's Server Technologies Division.
Both the PowerEdge 6800 and 6850 will be available in the next few weeks. The 6800 starts at $3,999 and the 6850 at $4,499.
Besides the servers, Dell also updated its Dell OpenManage system management software. The new version, OpenManage 4.3, brings automated change-management capability through a new tool and integration with patch management solutions such as Microsoft SMS, Clarke said.
Dell also introduced a new professional-services assessment offering that helps data center customers gauge their infrastructure and see how they can improve performance, scalability and power utilization, Clarke said. "This is important because customers ask us to simplify their operations, improve utilization and performance, and provide solutions that will cost-effectively scale as businesses grow," he said.
Given Dell's direct-sales history, solution providers often have found themselves competing with Dell's professional-services arm. IBM and Sun, however, have allowed partners to offer hardware, software and services around their own grid-computing strategies.
Tyler Dikman, president and CEO of Cooltronics, a Tampa, Fla.-based solution provider, said Dell's data center strategy reflects its usual approach of seeing which technologies take hold in the market before coming out with a lower-cost, industry-standard version. Dell's grid-computing plan also probably has as much to do with the vendor's desire to boost its bottom line as it does with customer demand, he added.
"You'll never see [Dell] as an innovator of a new technology or an emerging technology. They are always the copy cat," Dikman said. "[Dell sees] what's hot, what's successful and what they can do to make it more efficient, lower-cost and increase their margins."