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Opteron Madness forces Dell to market IBM servers

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Being late to market with dual-core processors has taken a damaging toll on Dell's marketing leverage. Evidence? You bet.

During a Dell-hosted conference call this week with reporters, Kirk Skaugen, Intel's general manager of servers, started detailing new four-way systems based on Intel's Paxville MP chip. Dell needed this chip bad, as its main competitors have had access to a four-way capable Opteron chip from AMD since April.

Skaugen was so impressed by his company's new chip that he blurted out, "Paxville now has the leading four-way score on (the TPC-C benchmark)." Oops.

For one, the system Skaugen so lovingly advertised on a Dell call belongs to IBM. Yep, the IBM x366 with four of the dual-core Paxville MP edged out the HP ProLiant DL585 with four dual-core Opterons. So here's an Intel man hawking IBM's high-performing gear in front of press and analysts during a Dell marketing session. Not pretty stuff.

Mistake two comes when you realize that the IBM box in question has a shipping date of March 31, 2006, according to the TPC Council. Meanwhile, HP's Opteron-based server ships next week.

In addition, IBM spent - get this - $1.8m for the server and hardware needed to run the benchmark. We'll let that sink in for a minute. This is supposed to be the "industry-standard, commodity" market, friends. HP spent $484,000 on its test. Hardly cheap, but, er, certainly not $1.8m.

The message here seems to be, "If you want a really fast and expensive four-way server, turn to IBM because Dell's systems haven't been benchmarked yet because the company just got these dual-core things from Intel and, quite frankly, it doesn't spend that much money on things like performance tuning. Or, if you need a speedy four-way server right now, turn to HP because it actually sells one."

All around, not Dell's best sales pitch. ®

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