Dell Delivers on Blade Server Promise

Dell finally made good on its promise of delivering blade servers to the market Monday when it shipped its PowerEdge 1655MC, which is targeted for data centers, server consolidation projects, thin-client computing and high-performance clusters.

Austin’s Dell said the blade server fits the slim, 3U (five-and-a-quarter inches) form factor, yet harnesses the performance of as many as 12 Intel Pentium III processors with server deployment and management software. Announced last April, PowerEdge 1655MC consists of a box with six dual-processor server blades, SCSI hard disk drives with integrated hardware RAID, hot-plug redundant power supplies and cooling fans, an integrated management card and redundant Ethernet switches.

Aligning its blade purpose with the likes of competitors RLX Technologies, Egenera, and IBM — that is, consolidating space and cutting down on messy cables — Dell argues the single box lowers hardware costs associated with current dual-processor, 1U rack servers by a third because components are shared across the six blade servers.

Indeed, Randy Groves, vice president of Dell’s Enterprise Systems Group, said the 1655MC will reduce cables by up to 80 percent and rack space by nearly 50 percent.”

It’s not enough to just have the hardware. Blades need competent software to run the boxes and Dell believes it has it in its Open Manage Remote Install software, which allows customers to remotely tune hundreds of blade servers at the same time. Each enclosure comes with an integrated Embedded Remote Access Module that monitors chassis and server blade status. Software can be installed locally through a USB connection or remotely with Dell’s OpenManage Remote Install.

Geared for the low-end market, PowerEdge 1655MC has a starting price point of $3,298 for an enclosure and one blade server. It supports Microsoft Windows 2000 Server, Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Red Hat Linux.

Dell isn’t the only firm shipping the modular servers. Announced in September, IBM’s next round of blade servers will also start hitting the shelves this week. The eServer BladeCenter line is targeted for the enterprise to help businesses pare back the total cost of ownership. IBM counts AOL Time Warner as one of its most high-profile customers in this segment.