Dell Launches Expansive Virtualization Offering

"About 25 year s ago, we got into the PC market and disrupted it. We did the same for servers and storage. We go in where products are overpriced and underutilized and we make them easy to buy, easy to use. We simplify IT. That's the tenet of our entire business here at Dell," said Chris Ratcliffe, director of global services and solutions marketing at Dell.

Dell is introducing new blade and rack-mount servers optimized for virtualization, new iSCSI storage arrays for virtual server environments, new services around virtualization, and it has expanded its relationship with Microsoft to include that vendor's Hyper-V virtualization software. Dell already offers VMware and Citrix XenServer and feels the addition of Microsoft will provide partners and customers a broader choice of solution.

According to a recent report by Gartner, virtualization will be the highest-impact trend changing infrastructure and operations through 2012, according to Dell.

"Now, virtualization changes everything. It changes the how, what, when and where [customers] buy and how they run and manage their business," Ratcliffe said. The two new blade servers, the PowerEdge M805 (starting at $1,699) and M905 (starting at $4,999), were "designed from the ground up for virtualization," said Sally Stevens, director of server platform marketing at Dell.

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The 2-socket and 4-socket AMD blades feature three highly-available, fully redundant I/O fabrics, and eight high-speed ports.

While describing Dell's new blades, Stevens took a direct swing at Hewlett-Packard, specifically HP's new Proliant BL495c blade server, which HP says is optimized to eliminate virtualization performance bottlenecks that would affect memory, data storage and network connections.

HP beat Dell to the punch with its virtualization announcement last week.

"All they did is take existing blades in the market, rip out a drive and add incremental memory.," Stevens said. "We have the eight [high-speed] ports. HP has five. 16 DIMMs is more than HP or IBM on 4-socket blades. We also have the best power performance in the industry. Virtual servers thrive on shared storage, which is why Dell designed the servers with more robust bandwidth, even on the switch side, Stevens said. Dell's M8024 is the first modular 10 GB Ethernet switch with eight external ports, which is vital for virtualization, she said.

On the storage side, Dell has introduced the PS5500E SAN device, which triples the capacity of the company's previous virtualization-optimized storage products from EqualLogic. The SATA device has 24 or 48 TB capacity. The vendor also is introducing EqualLogic VMware Auto-Snapshot Manager/VMware edition and Citrix Xenserver integration with the EqualLogic PS series, according to Asthana.

"It's not enough just to offer storage, you need to integrate as much as possible. Storage is one of biggest pain points when you deploy server virtualization," Asthana said. "We are integrating deeply with VMware. We're also extending the EqualLogic product line to up to 576 drives."

Auto-Snapshot Manager for VMware provides automated, integrated snapshots to provide simplified management and scalability, he added. "This is important as you scale the number of machines. It becomes more difficult to manage the snapshots. We are integrated with VMware folder structures. That's a key differentiator we have," Asthana said. On the software side, the new Microsoft relationship for Hyper-V and expanded VMware and XenServer relationships will help customers find the right solution for their environment, said Rick Becker, vice president of software and solutions at Dell.

"Now we have Hyper-V, VMware and XenServer across our portfolio of our server lineup. The reason we able to do that is our whole model. We don't develop proprietary solutions that trap [customers] to a single point of view. We work with partners and open standards to understand how to enable technology, Becker said.

Dell also has a new partnership with PlateSpin, acquired by Novell in March, that helps address several components of the virtualization lifecycle, Becker said.

"[PlateSpin] PowerRecon helps us optimize on the right server for the right job. PowerRecon helps our customers understand their IT enviorment and manage through tough decisions on where to virtualize and how," Becker said. "Also, [PlateSpin] PowerConvert allows you to go from virtual to physical, physical to virtual or virtual to virtual. It really helps Dell deliver the promise of virtualization not just as tool technology, but to simplify lifecycle management."

Dell will be competitive on price regarding its virtualization, but it hopes its differentiator will be the completeness off the offering, Asthana said.

"It doesn't all come down to price. We are offering a better solution to customers without having to charge more or less," he said. "An example of that is we have integrated our data protection capabilities with VMware. We're the only systems vendor that has done that. It addresses very significant pain points that the customer has."