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IT pros see minor benefits in newest Dell EMC servers

A new generation of Dell EMC servers, storage and hyper-converged, with only minor enhancements, made the combined companies' initial outing a low-key affair.

LAS VEGAS -- Software is the darling of enterprise IT today, which makes it hard for a hardware stalwart, such...

as Dell EMC, to wow the IT masses. This is especially true when the first products from the newly combined company are minor enhancements to its existing server, hyper-converged infrastructure and storage platforms.

The lack of splash at Dell EMC World 2017, held here earlier this month, reflects a common challenge among hardware suppliers: It's difficult to add major attention-grabbing features with extended product generations. It is similar to what Apple goes through with the release of a new iPhone -- with each generation, it is harder and harder to add something that is truly attention-grabbing.

Dell EMC outlined its plans for its 14th generation (14G) PowerEdge servers, which will become available later this summer in conjunction with Intel's release of its new scalable Xeon chips. The new Xeon chips focus on performance, security and efficiency; automation and security are improved in 14G through collaborative engineering between the two companies, such as Dell Secure Boot, which uses Intel Boot Guard. Few other specifics have been released.

The new Dell EMC servers also include improvements for software-defined, with 19 times more nonvolatile memory express flash storage to accelerate workloads and reduce latency. Multivector cooling in the 14G servers can support 50% more GPUs, and the steps needed to deploy servers has been reduced, including what Dell EMC said is "one-click BIOS tuning" and faster troubleshooting and remediation. It also includes integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) 9, which will improve systems management performance, according to Dell EMC.

Another minor upgrade for the 14G servers is the OpenManage Enterprise management console, which will unify Dell servers and networking, plus EMC storage, including their roadmaps, said Patrick Moorhead, president and principal analyst at Moor Insights and Strategy in Austin, Texas.

And the iDRAC service module was improved, promising four times better systems management performance and a RESTful API compliant with the Redfish open standards.

What's new in Dell EMC's 14G PowerEdge servers

The most significant changes coming this summer to Dell EMC's 14th-generation PowerEdge servers are incremental, notably the introduction of OpenManage Enterprise and the release of iDRAC 9:

  • OpenManage Enterprise: A new virtualized system management console allows for intelligent automation via expanded APIs, application plug-ins and customizable reporting that unifies server management and allows full data center monitoring.
  • Integrated security: System Lockdown prevents configuration changes that create security vulnerabilities; System Erase securely erases user data from drives and all non-volatile media when the server is retired.
  • Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) 9: The newest version's web front-end speeds up troubleshooting  to offer up to four times better systems management performance over the 13th generation, the company claims.
  • Non-Volatile Memory Express (NVMe): More low latency storage will increase application performance and response time.
  • Cooling: Automatic multi-vector cooling will allow more GPU accelerators in a single configuration; a streamlined front profile will improve airflow.

When 14G gets here, what's to like?

Dell EMC customers' reaction to the new 14G? That's nice, but meh.

Jed Crossley, CTO at NetWize Inc. in Salt Lake City, mostly works with companies that have $50 million or less in annual revenue. He said he doesn't foresee anyone rushing to buy the new Dell EMC servers, for the same reason many Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) customers don't buy their servers when there is a new CPU available.

Is that really having that much of an impact on customers? It is more power, but not a lot that they couldn't get out of 13G right now.
Jed CrossleyCTO, NetWize, Inc.

"Is that really having that much of an impact [for] customers?" he said. "It is more power, but not a lot that they couldn't get out of 13G right now."

Other users appreciate some of the finer updates in the 14G servers. The improved operating system visibility with iDRAC was welcomed by Joe Kotran, IT operations manager at a large defense and aerospace company. Integrating Puppet into iDRAC will replace a lot of manual labor to configure iDRAC for SMTP monitoring tools; instead, the data can be pulled through the operating system to save time, he said.

"The more we can see without having to use other tools is very helpful," he said.

Puppet integration also caught the attention of Derrick Dabney, a systems administrator at TransUnion in Chicago.

He has recently added tools from two companies -- Puppet and ServiceNow. So far, the company has used the alerting functions and automatic ticket generation, but it hasn't integrated processes yet. Connecting with PowerEdge servers could help bring both tools deeper into the company's processes, he said.

And then, there are even littler things: The root password will no longer be long, obscure passwords, for example.

"It seems like they are little behind the times not using the tags," Dabney said, citing HPE Integrated Lights Out.

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

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