SAN FRANCISCO — Dell is pulling back the covers a bit on technology rollouts
planned for later this year.
The event was atypical for Dell
, which rarely previews technology it’s not ready to ship immediately.
Dell officials discussed new products and services planned for the second
half of this year that it said are part of its “Project Hybrid,” an
initiative that promises less complex systems that offer better
price/performance than competitive offerings.
The one hardware announcement was a new blade system Dell showed off on stage. Dell provided few details about the system, which can accommodate up to 16 blades. Blade servers are thin, self-contained computing machines that can be pulled in and out of a chassis as needed in a data center.
Jay Parker, director of Dell’s PowerEdge servers, wouldn’t detail which
processor Dell plans to use, but noted the company’s support of both Intel
and AMD chips in its various product lines.
“This is an all new blade infrastructure we believe will leapfrog what
exists today,” Parker told internetnews.com. He added that the blade
system will have a consistent design with no changes to the chassis planned
for the foreseeable future.
Parker said Dell’s testing indicates its prototype blade system is 20
percent more energy efficient than the competition’s.
Other aspects of the wide-ranging Project Hybrid include reducing
deployment time, power consumption and management costs. Dell said it would
help IT departments cope with server sprawl by offering virtualization
solutions that take only minutes to a few hours to implement, compared to days
and weeks of some competitive solutions.
Parker did not give details of how Dell plans to implement virtualization
more efficiently. When asked if it would use a customized version of market
leader VMware’s software, Parker said he wasn’t prepared to detail the
technology and noted there are other virtualization technologies besides
VMware. He also said Dell would offer “unique embedded software components “for energy efficiency that will ease complexity.”
Analyst Charles King noted that chip vendors AMD
now build-in certain
virtualization features in some of their processors. “Today virtualization
is more typically applied retroactively to consolidate applications and
servers,” King told internetnews.com. “I’m intrigued by the notion
Dell might have more of a pre-packaged solution.”
Dell execs also took some potshots at competitors HP
for expensive service contracts
they claim require more consultants and support than most companies want or
should have to pay.
“In some cases we’ll be able to cut the deployment of virtual machines to
minutes,” said Parker. “That’s a big deal. We don’t usually get recognized
for our services capability or talk about it, but in Project Hybrid that is
what we will do.” He said Dell’s professional services would offer data
center energy assessments and other service and product capabilities “that
do not exist today” and will simplify implementation.
While market leaders HP and IBM have been touting the widespread adoption
of blades, Dell officials aren’t quite as enthusiastic. “There’s a
perception that Dell’s not committed to blades. That’s not true,” said
“We believe blades are important, not a mandate like some of our
competitors. The issue for customers is more than form factor. They are
facing complexity that sometimes blades can help, but for certain blades
alone won’t solve all problems.”
The technology preview is perhaps further evidence of a change in
strategy at Dell since its founder, Michael Dell, reestablished control
of the company a few months ago. Dell launched its Ideastorm customer feedback site, which has already led to changes in Dell’s product
mix such as systems pre-installed with Linux.
Kevin Kettler, Dell’s chief technology officer, said Dell has a private
version of Ideastorm for CIOs and other high level tech execs that also is
providing Dell with valuable feedback.
Dell execs devoted time to list technology
innovations the company has made, pressing the point that it’s more than
just a premier direct seller of industry standard hardware. One of several
examples Kettler mentioned is Dell’s support of the DisplayPort cable
standard developed by the Video Electronics Standards Association (VESA).
Dell, HP and Lenovo are among the VESA members on record as supporting
DisplayPort. DisplayPort promises to simplify cabling and reduce the number
of electronic components leading to thinner flat panel displays.
Another example is the H2C cooling system Dell delivered earlier this year for
some of its high end XPS gaming systems that allow processors to be
overclocked (i.e. run faster than normal) without overheating.
Kettler said Dell is working on technology that won’t be part of the
product mix until the 2012/2013 timeframe. A Dell spokesman said Dell’s been
doing such planning for at least the past five years. “What’s new is we’re
publicly discussing it,” he told internetnews.com.