Article

Dell releases servers with quad-core chips

Mark Fontecchio

Dell Inc. today released a half dozen two-socket servers that include Intel Corp.'s new Xeon quad-core server chip.

The release covers traditional rack servers, as well as blades, and includes the PowerEdge 1900, 1950, 2950, 2900, SC1430 and 1955. The company said that tests on the servers using the new chip brought 63% better performance than its four-socket systems with Intel's dual-core chips. The bottom line is that Dell says you can get more processing power in less rack space with quad-core technology.

The servers are available today with prices starting between $1,000 and $1,800, depending on the model.

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"The important thing to take away is this is really a moment in time where this is going to drive a shift from four socket to two socket," said Dell spokesman David Lord.

But will it matter to end users whether they have a four-socket server with dual-core chips or a dual-socket server with quad-core chips? Joe Clabby, president of research firm Clabby Analytics, said not much.

"The only thing I can think of is it might matter from a price perspective if their software provider charges differently for one rather than the other," he said.

Clabby pointed to when Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) and Intel were bringing dual-core chips to market and some companies decided to double the licensing costs for their software. For the most part, Clabby said they missed out and had to back down on their pricing. It can still make a difference though, depending on whether a software company charges per processor or per processing core. With the switch from dual-core to quad-core, Clabby thinks software prices won't jump as exponentially as they did going from single core to dual core, but some companies will look at their pricing and adjust it again.

"When Oracle database was twice the price of Microsoft SQL Server, tell me that didn't bite them," he said.

Lord's statement is in line with comments from Kevin Kettler, the chief technology officer (CTO) at Dell, who last month said in a speech that the future of the data center would be dominated by x86 servers and a "scale-out" architecture. Dell sells more than $5 billion worth of servers every year, with all of them being four sockets or fewer.

Dissenters of the "scale-out" only architecture said the capabilities of x86 servers have a ceiling, and that midrange and enterprise servers are best for certain kinds of workloads. All the other major server vendors -- IBM, Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP) and Sun Microsystems Inc. -- have their hands in x86 servers, as well as "scale-up" architecture that includes Unix servers and mainframes.

The new Dell servers are also certified for VMware Inc. VI 3 virtualization software, furthering the company's claim that the future data center will be chock full of virtual machines. Users can pay to get the software prepackaged on their servers when they get shipped, which echoes another comment by Kettler last month.

"It will get to a point where [virtualization] becomes a standard feature of the machines being shipped from a factory," he said.

Dell said it plans to incorporate AMD's quad-core processor into its servers when it comes out next year, continuing that ongoing fight between the two leading server chipmakers.

The Intel Xeon 5300 processor, nicknamed Clovertown, consists of two dual-core server chips tied together by a front bus on a multichip module. AMD claims that is not a native quad-core, which it said would be four cores on a single die and what it plans on releasing next year. Intel also plans on releasing a new "native" quad core next year, so the race continues.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer


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