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Data Center a Target For Triumvirate's Latest

Three major IT companies announced new hardware, software and services today to round out their individual and joint enterprise ventures.

Executives with Dell, Intel and Oracle discussed their ongoing relationship, this time focusing on upcoming 4-way PowerEdge 6800 and PowerEdge 6850 servers powered by 64-bit Xeon processors that can run massive data center software like Oracle 10g and 10g RAC.

"This is a big step for our industry," Jeff Clarke, senior vice president at Dell, said during a conference call to the press. "We have effectively lowered the barrier to entry for customers looking to deploy a high-performance, four-processor server for database environments."

Each company has their vested interest in making the partnership work. Dell is trying to convince customers that several racks of x86-based servers running non-proprietary software are less expensive than operating huge Unix/RISC-based mainframes. Intel is saturating the market with the message that its 64-bit Xeon family is ready to go. Oracle is leveraging its relationship with Dell and Linux distributors like Red Hat to promote its 10g and Database 9i products.

Representatives with the three companies have also been on a 14-city tour looking to convince customers to consolidate databases, applications, servers and storage onto their common platforms.

The companies are also hoping to attract high-end data center customers with the latest memory and interconnect technologies, such as DDR2-400 ECC and PCI Express I/O.

"We are not done," Abhi Talwalker, senior vice president and general manager at Intel said. "There are a number of technologies that we are working on that we still want to bring to this project, including dual core architectures and virtualization."

The partnership is also not completely exclusive. Jeff Clarke, senior vice president at Dell, said the company would validate its systems to run Microsoft SQL Server 2005 using Microsoft Windows Server 2003 64-bit Edition, Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Novell's SUSE Enterprise Linux products later this year.

However, the door at Dell still seems shut for AMD . Despite the past success of its x86 64-bit Opteron, Bruce Kornfeld, director of worldwide enterprise marketing at Dell, told internetnews.com talk about Intel's rival are coming up less and less conversations with customers.

"AMD in the server space is losing steam," Kornfeld said citing recent market surveys from research firm Gartner. "We are watching market share and Intel is proving that it has what customers are asking for."

Preparing for the Grid

To augment its hardware, Dell also announced a new Data Center Environmental Assessment service for data centers ranging from small (200 Square feet) to large (10,000+ square feet) environments. For a starting price of $5,000, Dell's experts will advise customers on airflow and power requirement designs. The service is expected to launch in the Americas and Europe later this year.

Dell also expanded the systems management features on its new OpenManage 4.3 release. The software includes tools for single server update (Server Update Utility), centralized hardware monitoring and updates (IT Assistant 7.0) and remote hardware and software patch management using software like Microsoft SMS 2003.

The assessment service and OpenManage are both buildups to Dell's, Intel's and Oracle's other enterprise venture called Project MegaGrid, which is based in Austin, Texas. Originally launched in December, the aim of the project is to describe reference architectures that can be used by customers. However, Project MegaGrid itself is not described as a product delivered for commercial sale by the companies.

Facing a perception that Project MegaGrid is a far cry from similar grid projects coming out of IBM, HP and Sun , Charles Rozwat, executive vice president at Oracle said the Dell/Intel/Oracle trine is already a major force because of its install base.

"We have a lot of customers that are already using grids in production with about 4,000 customers committed to building better products," Rozwat said.

Dell's Clarke added that the companies are working to expand the 128-node configuration to 256 nodes and beyond, as well as incorporating provisioning technology.