Latest Dell Opteron Servers Focused on Efficiency

Dell is giving IT buyers a choice of two new PowerEdge servers: standard and “Energy Smart.” The two PowerEdge 2970 models are based on AMD’s latest dual-core Opteron processor (2.8 GHz) and are upgradeable to AMD’s quad-core “Barcelona” processor due this summer.

The standard 2970 is available today starting at $1,849 while the Energy Smart model is slated to ship in the next few weeks for about $100 more.

“You’ll make up that extra cost in a year,” Stori Waugh, a senior manager for Dell’s PowerEdge servers, told Waugh added that the energy savings from four Energy Smart models would cover the $100 premium on a fifth server right away. She said the server is 26 percent more energy efficient than the standard model.

Even the standard 2970 is a big improvement over earlier servers. Dell  estimates the 2970 draws up to 34 percent less power and offers up to 105 percent greater performance per watt over the previous generation of servers with dual-core processors.

Waugh said Dell is moving away from a focus on specs such as speeds and feeds based on feedback from its customers. “What we hear over and over again is that our customers are faced with rising infrastructure and lifecycle system costs,” said Waugh. “We don’t agree with our competition that blades are the answer to solve all those problems. Sometimes blades are a good option, but we’re taking a more holistic approach.”

Still, blades  remain very much in Dell’s plans. Although she wouldn’t provide specific details, Waugh hinted Dell plans a blade offering late this year that will “leapfrog the competition in features and performance.”

Virtualization  is one area Dell said is a big part of its current and future plans. Waugh said customers have consistently told Dell they are interested in either initiating or doing more with virtualization to consolidate server resources, but that it’s clear they want to do that with new, not legacy hardware.

“The 2970 is great for virtualization and you will see us take the lead in this area,” said Waugh. Later this year Dell will make a number of announcements of more servers and investments designed to optimize its portfolio of virtualization solutions. Waugh hinted at servers “truly optimized” for virtualization that will be different from competitive solutions in either the blade or traditional server areas.

The 2970 is designed to allow a processor upgrade to the quad-core Barcelona chip when it becomes available this summer. HP, IBM and other companies with Opteron-based servers offer the same upgradeability, which involves a relatively simply process of swapping out of the processor and upgrading the BIOS . When Barcelona is available, Dell said it will be the first major systems vendor to offer AMD’s Dual Dynamic Power Management feature for more efficient performance.

Analyst Charles King of Pund-IT said in the last 18 months the issues of power constraints and energy consumption have marched very quickly to near the top of the list of considerations IT buyers have when making new server purchases.

“It’s also driving the interest in virtualization,” King told “because the IT folks realize if they can consolidate workloads, they can cut costs. So it’s smart for Dell to have a strong product set in this area.”

King isn’t sure many customers will upgrade systems to Barcelona but reckons it’s a good checklist item for Dell and its competitors to offer.

“The x86 server market has gotten so crowded with products; dual-core, twin dual-core from Intel sold as quad-core and then AMD’s Barcelona on the way,” said King. “I think customer are going to be doing some serious homework, and it’s going to take some time to figure out which processor will best serve their needs.”

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