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Dell ventures into data center design business

Dell is making its debut in data center design with a new service to help customers plan the physical components of the data center, such as air flow and power requirements. But should you really put the design of your data center into the hands of a server vendor?

Dell has joined the ranks of IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. by offering a new consulting service to help customers...

plan and build data centers. The Round Rock, Texas, company said its new service will help customers deal with all the issues surrounding the trend toward denser server infrastructures, including air flow and power requirement issues.

The need for increased data center planning has grown as IT managers look for new ways to optimize performance in high density facilities. Issues in the physical environment--including cooling, power conditioning and space constraints--have typically fallen under the responsibility of contractors, engineers and facility staff. But recently, vendors have seen a market opportunity in the area and have joined the effort in designing and maintaining server farms.

For more information:

The Data Center Power Playbook

Avoid a tug of war with the facilities department

The Data Center Environment Assessment is designed for data centers ranging from 200 square feet to 10,000-plus square-feet. Pricing starts at $5,000 and increases depending on the size of the project.

Dell announced the service simultaneously with its new PowerEdge 6800 and PowerEdge 6850 servers, which compete with Opteron in the enterprise market.

Analysts said Dell is tapping into the wide open market of data center design consulting.

"The announcement of this service program really just shows the increasing importance of properly designed data centers," said Gordon Haff, an analyst at Nashua, N.H.-based Illuminata. "Large data centers have always paid attention to physical and electrical issues. But the increasing power density of processors and systems makes the issues more critical for an increasing swath of companies."

New PowerEdge servers

Dell recently unveiled two new database servers, the PowerEdge 6800 and 6850, which feature the new 64-bit Intel Xeon processors.

Like other Dell eighth-generation servers, the new servers offer the latest core technologies, including DDR2-400 ECC memory and PCI Express I/O. According to Dell, the systems deliver performance up to 32% higher than previous Dell four-processor offerings.

The new 64-bit Intel processors are available in two different configurations: large 8 MB level three cache, or a smaller level two cache with a faster processor clock speed.

The PowerEdge 6800 and Power Edge 6850 cost $3,999 and $4,899, respectively, and both will be available in the coming weeks.

"Whatever debate there might be about Dell's high-level service capabilities, as they relate to tying into business processes and the like, they certainly know how to assemble systems and build data centers," Haff said.

According to Charles King, an analyst with Hayward, Calif.-based Pund-IT Research, the expansion of services is just the next logical step for Dell, a relatively small player in the services business.

"Dell has been very aggressively pursuing the enterprise market," King said. "The company has a history of effectively rolling out services and products when and where they're needed. They don't throw money in places it doesn't stick. They see an opportunity to use their existing customer based to increase service revenues."

Vendor vs. design contractor

Some experts suggest vendors, such as Dell, HP and IBM, have an agenda to sell products and may not have the level of expertise of a data design expert who is vendor neutral.

While King acknowledged the company's market strategy skills, he raised an interesting question: "If you're going to build a data center, at what point will you get more effective advice from a hardware vendor than from my architect or contractor?"

Specific details for the service, such as the level of support for heterogeneous environments, are yet to be released. Dell officials were not available for comment.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Matt Stansberry, News Editor

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