Dell Stepping into 64-bit Support

SAN FRANCSICO — Dell is taking advantage of market shifts in computing systems in order to bolster its position in the IT food chain.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker said it would support
Intel’s 64-bit extensions for its Xeon chipsets and add them to its traditional 32-bit Xeon server workhorse.

The company also said it is updating its supercomputing cluster
configurations to include InfiniBand switches . Both announcements, part of Intel’s Developer Forum taking place this week, position the company for data centers or high-performance computing clusters (HPCC) environments, according to Dell director of worldwide marketing Neil Hand.

“This fits right into our approach to scale out and the ability to
add into mid-range 2-way and 4-way Xeon and Itanium systems,” Hand told “It’s clear that we can see that the
performance levels will benefit from these extensions. Those building blocks have been placed today.”

Hand said Dell has been working behind the scenes with Intel
on its 64-bit Xeon plans. He said the “multi-year partnership” was forged “not last week nor last month.”

This might explain why the IT industry has heard precious little
from Dell during the events leading up to Tuesday’s announcement at Intel’s Developers Forum, taking place here this week. It also explains why Dell has never mentioned “Opteron” (AMD’s 64-bit server processor) in its product vocabulary.

“We continue to monitor Opteron’s progress, but we have decided to
support Intel’s architectures,” Hand said, adding that it would take a major shift in customer requests for Dell to change its mind.

Instead, Hand said Dell has been focusing on helping other companies like cluster partner Oracle in its transition from 9i RACs to its 10g Grid strategy.

“They have been advocating Xeon 64 even in mid-range uses,” Hand
said. “[Intel’s announcement] now allows them to address the scaling without having to worry about compatibility.”

Dell’s HPCC exploits have been well documented. In November 2003,
the company issued a 34-node cluster to support Princeton University
student and faculty research. Running on Intel’s Xeon chips, Dell also holds the supercomputing record for the fastest non-proprietary HPCC system to make the Top 500 list.

And hoping to extend its presence in HPC systems, Dell said it has
finally decided to join the InfiniBand train.

Through a new agreement with Topspin Communications, Dell said its
customers will be able to select Topspin InfiniBand switches and Host
Connectivity Adaptors as part of bundled 24- and 64-node Dell HPCC
configurations running Red Hat Linux in the first quarter of 2004.
Additional cluster sizes can be designed and delivered based on
customer requirements.

Despite being launched some 18 months ago, supported by rivals Sun
Microsystems and IBM, and a Trade Association Integrators’ List Program launched in August 2003, Hand said InfiniBand has finally “reached a maturity point” for Dell.

Dell said the switches will also be added to the company’s certified configurations for Oracle10g later this year.

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