Dell is giving its four-way Itanium server a second chance. A year and a half after ceasing shipments of its PowerEdge 7150--the first four-way Itanium system from a major vendor--the company has announced it is shipping a new four-processor system based on Itanium 2 chips.
The PowerEdge 7250 is designed to support as much as 32GB of memory. It will be priced starting at $12,499 in a single-processor configuration, and will ship with processor offering clock speeds between 1.3GHz and 1.5GHz, Dell says.
Though Dell ships only two Itanium-based systems, the company now says it sees a growing niche for Itanium. Dell has also supported the Itanium 2. It is particularly suited for database users looking to get around the memory limitations of 32-bit systems, which can physically support only 4GB of memory.
"It's a matter of market evolution more than anything," says Tim Golden, Dell's director of PowerEdge server marketing. "A couple of years ago there was a single operating system that was supporting Itanium."
With more application support and with Microsoft, Red Hat, and Novell's Suse Linux now supporting the processor, Itanium is becoming an attractive alternative for customers using Reduced Instruction Set Computing (RISC) architectures like UltraSparc and PowerPC, Golden says.
"For those customers, they are looking to migrate to an Intel, standards-based system for cost reasons primarily, but they view 32-bit systems as a step backward," he adds.
In Search of Power
One such Itanium customer is Hillco, a nursing home operator in Kinston, North Carolina. It uses Dell's dual-processor PowerEdge 3250 to run a timekeeping database that measures the hours worked by its 9800 employees.
Hillco moved to an Oracle database running on the 3250 after consolidating the company's 60 timekeeping databases on to a single server in 2002. The company is about to begin evaluation of a four-way 7250 server because the amount of data being processed is now simply too great for the two-way system to handle, says Bobby Jefferson, Hillco's director of information technology.
"In the past four years, my databases have continually grown and grown and the amount of data that people want to analyze and compare is just ballooning," Jefferson says.
Because the Kronos Workforce Timekeeper application that Hillco uses is not currently certified to run in an Oracle Real Application Clusters environment, simply adding a second 3250 and clustering the two systems together is not an option, Jefferson says.
"I would be more than happy to build an Oracle RAC but my software vendor is not supporting it yet," he says.
In a four-processor configuration, with 2GB of RAM and a single 36GB hard drive, pricing for Dell's PowerEdge 7250 starts at $22,099, according to Dell.