Article

Dell PowerEdge M-Series blade server woos the critics

Bridget Botelho

Re-entering the blade server space, Dell Inc. has introduced a new blade server and chassis line, the PowerEdge M-Series, which promises better power efficiency, performance and switch options than Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp. blade

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Dell downplays blades

Historically, the server industry looks down its nose at Dell when it comes to blades, but analyst Jim Burton at Rye Brook, N.Y.-based Ideas International Inc. says not so fast.

"I was expecting something more basic from Dell, but this blade offering is something that will be very competitive with what HP and IBM offer," Burton said.

After testing Dell's offering, Burton was impressed by its power efficiency and the network switch configurations, which allow switch upgrades that other blade offerings don't. Pricing is also quite aggressive for what Dell delivers, he said. With its new blade offering, Dell hopes to dispel any notion that it won't be competitive in the blade server space.

Dell blades: Better performance and 
Dell began developing its blade about two years ago, said Mike Roberts, Dell's senior product planning manager. The company has since invested 55,000 man-hours to design the blades and submitted 30 patents for the blades and chassis. "We have put a tremendous amount of money and manpower behind it, and we made no compromises with these blades, he said.

The new blade lineup does show some genuine innovation.
Gordon Haff,
analystIlluminata Inc.

For starters, Dell said the lead-free PowerEdge M-Series delivers energy efficiency and performance that surpasses current HP and IBM blade server systems. With innovations in blade server fans, power supplies, and power management features, the PowerEdge M-Series reportedly consumes up to 19% less power, uses 3,200 fewer watts and achieves up to 25% better performance per watt than the HP BladeSystem c-Class, said Albert Esser, vice president of power and cooling infrastructure at Dell.

As for performance, Dell claims the M-Series blades offer 2% better overall performance than HP c-class blades, and 12% better overall performance than IBM under similar workloads and configurations. Additionally, Dell claims the M-Series consumes 12% less energy and achieves up to 28% better performance per watt than the IBM BladeCenter H.

HP VP of Industry Standard Servers business unit Mark Potter said HP hasn't seen the Dell blade chassis yet, but "looks forward to comparing it to HP's c-Class blades."

M-Series features
The 10U-sized PowerEdge M1000e enclosure supports 16 blade servers. It is optimized for Dell's PowerEdge M600 and M605 blade servers that support up to two quad-core Intel Xeon and quad-core AMD Opteron processors, respectively. For users with space constraints, the M600 and M605 blade servers are 60% more dense than a standard 1U server.

Additionally, Dell's PowerEdge M1000e connectivity options eliminate the need for rip-and-replace upgrades, Dell claims. The chassis includes the following features:

  • an upgradeable Ethernet blade switch, the Layer 3 Dell PowerConnect M6220, with four 1Gigabit (Gb) ports and optional upgradeable ports for stacking or 10 Gb Ethernet;
  • three Cisco Ethernet switch options, enabling customers to choose between a switch with all 1 Gb ports, 1 Gb ports plus stacking ports or a combination of 1Gb and 10 Gb plus stacking. An InfiniBand switch option from Cisco will also be available;
  • two Brocade 4 Gb Fibre Channel connectivity options, allowing customers to choose between a standard FC4 switch or a low-cost port aggregator that provides simplified configuration and interoperability into most storage area network fabrics;
  • FC4 host bus adapters from QLogic and Emulex, as well as an InfiniBand mezzanine card from Mellanox; and
  • Fibre Channel and Ethernet pass-through options for customers with an existing switch infrastructure, including an Ethernet pass-through module that can run at 10, 100, or 1,000 Mb per second.

Erasing the past
During a briefing on Dell's new blades, Rick Becker, the vice president of solutions at Dell Product Group, made an effort to snuff out any notion that Dell is not a strong blade vendor and that its other blade servers are not up to par. Becker said that M-Series' predecessor is a good product but that Dell hasn't pushed blades in the way competitors like HP have because blades aren't always the best choice for customers.

" We don't mandate blades like some of our competitors. We say, 'Where they make sense, use blades.' We aren't about blading everything; we are about blading where appropriate." Becker said.

Dell will continue to focus on its rack servers as well, Becker said. "This new product shows that we are listening to our customers. Some want more density and want blades, others are deploying racks. We are offering both."

Illuminata Inc. analyst Gordon Haff said it makes good business sense for Dell not to have been aggressive about blades in the past, because it lacked a strong blade product, but he expects that mentality to change now, however.

"The new blade lineup does show some genuine innovation," Haff said. "From a product perspective, this is their best effort to date by a good margin," although, "clearly, they have a lot of ground to make up against HP and IBM."

Burton agreed, saying, "Dell had a couple really bad starts with blades in April 2002 and, in April 2004, with the PowerEdge 1855. The 1955 was an upgrade and did OK for them, it wasn't bad, but it was a typical Dell industry-standard blade thrown together cheaply."

The PowerEdge 1955 blade chassis will be available for two additional quarters, and Dell promises to support the M-Series for three technology generations. Customers can deploy 1955 server chassis and the M-Series in the same rack, but a 1955 blade server does not fit in an M-Series chassis, and vice versa.

The new M1000e blade enclosure is available at a starting price of $5,999, along with blades starting at $1,849. This compares with a configurable- HP BladeSystem c-Class c3000 Enclosure system price of $5,936, and HP ProLiant blade servers starting at $2,209, according to HP's Web site. An IBM BladeCenter H 8852 Chassis can be purchased online at $3,595 and up, and IBM BladeCenter server blades are priced at $2,000 and up. Shipping for the M-Series begins Wednesday, Jan. 23.

Dell's OpenManage systems management suite is also available with the PowerEdge M-Series and includes expanded management features, such as centralized chassis management controllers; dynamic power management to set high-/low-power thresholds; real-time reporting for enclosure and blade power consumption, and the ability to prioritize blade slots for power to provide optimal control over power resources; and integrated KVM (keyboard/video/mouse).

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer.

Also, check out our news blog at serverspecs.blogs.techtarget.com.

Related Topics: Blade servers, VIEW ALL TOPICS

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