Dell Unveils New Servers for a Changing IT World

Dell EMC is rolling out new servers that take into account the increasingly distributed nature of modern IT environments.

The latest PowerEdge systems, unveiled last week, are targeted for small and midsize businesses (SMBs) but also can be used by enterprises that are pushing more of their compute and other data center infrastructure beyond the confines of traditional data centers and closer to where users are and data is being generated.

With the idea that the boxes will be placed in remote offices or locations such as retail stores and hospitality sites, the systems not only come with the power and performance of Intel Xeon processors but also with low latency and quiet acoustics.

The new systems are “designed for small and medium-sized businesses, as well as enterprises, to process information securely with less latency,” David Schmidt, senior director of product management for Dell’s PowerEdge servers, wrote in a blog post. “Expanding capabilities beyond the walls of a traditional data center allows organizations to capture information where it’s immediately relevant and gain insights to improve customer and employee experiences.”

The Expanding Edge

The servers are a nod to the growing presence of edge environments, which continue to expand as more applications are accessed and more data is being created outside of central on-premises data centers. Gartner analysts are forecasting that by 2025, more than 75 percent of data will be created and processed outside of data centers and the cloud. That figure was 10 percent in 2018.

Santhosh Rao, senior research director at Gartner, said in a report that “as the volume and velocity of data increases, so too does the inefficiency of streaming all this information to a cloud or data center for processing.”

To address that need, hardware and software makers are working to push more of the compute, storage and analytics out to the edge to collect, store and process the data closer to where it’s being generated.

Also read: Open Source Will Drive Edge Computing: Red Hat

Dell EMC’s new PowerEdge servers come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including rack and tower form factors, and are powered by Intel’s Xeon E-2300 processors. Schmidt described the entry-level systems as flexible and affordable building blocks for everything from mission-critical workloads and cloud infrastructure to point-of-sale transactions.

In addition, the one-socket PowerEdge T350 and R350 include high-availability features like hot-plug boot drive options and expanded storage capabilities to address the growing amounts of data being created. They’re also designed to fit in constrained environments, with the T350 tower system 37 percent smaller than prior generation systems.

Dell's latest servers
Dell’s new server lineup

Built for Growth, Advanced Technology

The scale of the systems and the options they carry are important attributes of the servers, according to Rob Enderle, principal analyst of The Enderle Group. The enhancements include making the servers more modular and allow for growth without having to be replaced, Enderle told InternetNews.

“One of the significant drivers is upgradability; customers don’t want to have to replace servers often and prefer a line that can be more easily upgraded in place, which appears to be a significant feature in this offering,” he said.

Dell also introduced the PowerEdge T550, which runs on Intel’s 3rd Gen Xeon Scalable chips. The two-socket server is aimed at such advanced technologies as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning inferencing, virtualization, medical imaging, data analytics and software-defined storage, Schmidt said.

Also read: Databricks Turns Data Into Billions

Tight Server Market

The new systems were announced in the week leading up to the Dell Technologies Summit and come at a time when the company is in a tight competition with Hewlett Packard Enterprise in the server market. According to IDC, the two OEMs in the second quarter were essentially tied for first, with HPE holding 15.7 percent of the market per revenue and Dell coming in at 15.6 percent. Inspur, Lenovo and IBM rounded out the top five.

In terms of shipments, Dell was number one, with 16.4 percent of the space. HPE came in second, at 13.8 percent.

That came in a market that saw overall revenue fall 2.5 percent year-over-year, to $23.6 billion, and shipments nudge past 3.2 million units, an increase of only 0.1 percent. Volume servers kept the market from tanking, with revenue for the segment growing 5.6 percent. Revenue for midrange systems fell 30 percent and for high-end servers, the drop was 32.7 percent.

As-a-Service is the Focus

However, the head-to-head numbers between the system makers are not entirely reflective of what’s really going on in the space, Enderle said.

“The competition in the server market is less about competition between the OEMs and more about competition with cloud services,” the analyst said. “Products are getting far more attention with automated functions and managed services so that on-premises solutions like this can become stronger alternatives to cloud services. Other areas [of interest] are financing and payment plans that are migrating to cloud like as-a-service offerings.”

Enterprises and SMBs are continuing to move more workloads to the cloud and are adopting multicloud and hybrid cloud models. According to IT management solutions provider Flexera’s annual cloud report, 92 percent of enterprises have a multicloud strategy. In addition, 80 percent have a hybrid cloud strategy.

Organizations are now looking to IT vendors to help them create cloud-like environments in their on-premises data centers. That includes flexible consumption and payments models – such as pay-as-you-go and subscriptions – and delivering compute, storage and other data center infrastructure as services.

VMware, Dell Stay Close

Hardware makers are responding to these trends. HPE in 2019 came out with a plan to make its entire portfolio available as a service by 2022 and is making its GreenLake platform the foundation for the effort. Lenovo has a similar effort underway with its TruScale offerings and Cisco Systems is doing the same with Cisco Plus.

Dell a year ago unveiled Apex, its own as-a-service play and is leveraging its tight relationship with VMware to expand the effort. At the virtual VMworld show last week, Dell and VMware announced Apex Cloud Services with VMware Cloud, an initiative to offer software-defined compute, storage and networking in private and public cloud environments as well as at the edge. Dell will own and manage the infrastructure, which can be used with VMware’s Tanzu Kubernetes platform, and organizations can deploy the resources on premises, at the edge or in a colocation facility via one or three-year subscriptions.

“Customers can deploy workloads based on their evolving business needs,” Travis Vigil, senior vice president of portfolio and product management for Dell’s Infrastructure Solutions Group, wrote in a blog post. “They have the ability to easily migrate workloads across cloud environments, without the need to re-architect applications, leveraging VMware HCX application migration and mobility platform, all included in the service.”

The relationship between the two companies is expected to remain close even when VMware is spun out of the Dell later this year and becomes an independent company.

Jeff Burt
Jeffrey Burt has been a journalist for more than three decades, the last 20-plus years covering technology. During more than 16 years with eWEEK, he covered everything from data center infrastructure and collaboration technology to AI, cloud, quantum computing and cybersecurity. A freelance journalist since 2017, his articles have appeared on such sites as eWEEK, eSecurity Planet, Enterprise Networking Planet, Enterprise Storage Forum, InternetNews, The Next Platform, ITPro Today, Channel Futures, Channelnomics, SecurityNow, and Data Breach Today.

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