Dell Unwraps Products Designed for Virtualization

Dell is continuing to push its image as a provider of simple-to-use IT products, but it also may be trying to move upmarket, with a number of announcements designed around virtualization.

On Wednesday, Dell introduced two blade servers, support for more capacity in its storage products, and new partnerships with companies that offer virtualization management products and services. The news is tied to a Monday announcement of support for Microsoft's Hyper-V virtualization software.

The PowerEdge M805 and M905 blades were designed from scratch with virtualization in mind, said Sally Stevens, director of server platform marketing at Dell, speaking on a conference call last week to discuss the announcements. The M805 is a two-socket AMD blade with 16 DIMMs (dual in-line memory modules); the M905 is a four-socket AMD blade with 24 DIMMs.

The blades are power-efficient and offer more DIMMs than do comparable servers from Hewlett-Packard, Stevens said. The M805 will cost US$1,699, and the M905 will start at $4,999.

Dell also announced it will support Citrix Xenserver out of the box on its EqualLogic PS series of storage arrays. "When you get your Xen license and hook it up to an array, it's ready to go," said Praveen Asthana, director of worldwide storage marketing for Dell.

IT departments will be able to buy a new storage array from Dell that supports more data. The new PS5500E, also being introduced on Wednesday, can handle 576 T bytes using a single management interface.

Customers getting into virtualization for the first time, and current virtualization users who want to better manage the process, will also see expanded help from Dell. The company is partnering with Vizioncore to offer backup and restore capabilities tuned for virtualized environments, and is also teaming up with PlateSpin to offer optimization and lifecycle management services.

Dell will also offer a version of its Auto-Snapshot Manager that is compatible with VMware. The manager is designed to help protect virtual machines and let users do things such as restore individual virtual machines, rather than having to restore them all even if only one is needed.

The announcements appear in line with Dell's attempts to make it easier for companies to use virtualization. "Dell is still very suited for that customer looking to open up the box when it comes in the door and have virtualization," said Mark Bowker, an analyst with Enterprise Strategy Group.

Simplifying installation and use may particularly appeal to small or medium-size businesses, which tend to be the budget-conscious organizations that are attracted to Dell products, he said. By comparison, Dell competitors HP and IBM have the reputation of offering a broader selection of products and services for large data centers, he said.

Dell has generally had a reputation as the cheap option, agreed Michael Cote, an analyst with Redmonk. But over the past couple of years, Dell has been working toward dispelling that cheap image. "Paying more attention to things like virtualization and offering more than just a box would probably help them out along those lines," he said.

In addition, the new blades and storage array have more capabilities and so could appeal to larger companies.

Dell joins others, such as HP, Microsoft and BMC Software, making virtualization announcements in the run-up to VMware's annual VMworld conference, kicking off Sept. 15.

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