Dell Launches Easier-to-Manage SMB Servers

Dell today introduced new servers and storage aimed at the small and medium-sized business (SMB) markets and designed to make ongoing management simpler and less expensive, a perpetual problem for all IT shops. The company also announced plans for its first branded uninterruptible power supplies (UPS).

With maintenance costs eating up as much as 70 percent of IT budgets, according to Dell’s own research, the purchase price of the machine is almost minuscule by comparison. Many of the issues are in software, but Dell (NASDAQ: DELL), a hardware firm, is doing what it can to reduce those expenses.

“Software is a system management issue, which we’ve now embedded on the motherboard,” Sally Stevens, vice president of platform marketing at Dell, told “If you think about how to streamline efficiencies, you can do it in design efficiencies like toolless racking or common design.”

So Dell can reduce costs of maintenance by minimizing the changes they make to PC internals, for instance. Another way is the Lifecycle Controller on the motherboard. That controller holds all of the critical drivers and even the operating system. When the hardware is installed, the customer presses a button and the operating system and drivers are set up and configured automatically.

Over the life span of the server, the controller will regularly check for updates, so if there’s a new network controller driver or BIOS , it will be downloaded and installed automatically.

PowerEdge, the 11th Generation

Dell is launching the eleventh generation of its PowerEdge starting with the SMB market, introducing many of the features it cites as means to reduce maintenance costs. These servers, powered by Intel’s (NASDAQ: INTC) newly introduced family of Xeon 3400 processors, have the Lifecycle Controller, easy-access design and toolless design.

The entry-level server is the PowerEdge T110, a tower server with a single Xeon 3400. It’s designed for low-usage scenarios, such as the first server a company might need. Because it also could be used in point-of-sale or other customer-facing scenarios, it’s been designed to be very quiet.

The T310 is its bigger brother, with twice as much memory (32GB versus 16GB) and more room for hard drives. Both servers come in a tower only 18 inches deep, making it ideal for tight spots, and each is certified to run Windows Server 2008 R2, the latest server software from Microsoft.

The PowerEdge R210 is the rack equivalent to the T110, in that it’s an ideal first rack server. It’s only 15 inches deep, much shorter than the typical rack mount server. Dell also said it is 88 percent more power efficient than its predecessor, the R200.

“It always goes to the challenge of the board design and cooling and airflow,” Stevens said. “In the past, we used to have maybe one or two Energy Smart SKUs. Now all of the bays of the PowerEdge are Energy Smart. That’s just part of base design, because it’s critical to all our customers, whether they are enterprise or SMB, they want power efficiency.”

The last server being introduced is the PowerEdge R510, a 2U rack server for midsized business and remote offices with increased storage capacity over a 1U unit.

New storage server

Dell also announced the PowerVault NX300, an entry-level Microsoft Windows Storage Server 2008 NAS (Network-Attached Storage) solution that offers the capability to store up to four terabytes of data in a single device. The 1U device fits into any Dell rack mount cabinet.

Like the new servers, it’s meant for rapid and easy setup. It can be set as a default file share in minutes, simply by adding a storage name to the network.

“When you think about the typical user interface for SMBs, most are running Windows. With this box, it’s built on Windows Storage Server 2008, which provides a common interface to their Windows experience,” said Larry Hart, worldwide senior manager.

The NX300 comes with Dell’s deduplication software, software-based RAID support to offer RAID 0, 1, 5 and 10 and what Dell calls Proconsult Remote Virtualization Readiness Assessment. This mouthful of a feature allows customers to plan and assess their existing hardware for implementing a virtualized environment sometime down the road.

In mid-October, Dell also plans to introduce 28 new uninterruptible power supply products with an efficiency rating of 95 percent or greater. These devices will integrate into Dell cabinets and offer remote monitoring through Dell’s OpenManage management console. They will include toolless rack mounting, a multi-language graphical LCD displays and improved acoustics.

The new PowerEdge T110, T310, R210 and R510 servers are available starting in September at starting at $599. The PowerVault NX300 is available in October and will start at $3,000. The uninterruptible power supplies (UPS) are likewise available in October, and will carry prices starting at $269.

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