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Dell unleashes blades of fury

Rivals and readers perform dissection

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Pack Rats

A number of readers went at Dell's claims of a packaging edge over IBM and HP. Order the rivals' blades, and you end up with about 26 boxes worth of stuff versus just one box of stuff from Dell.

One anonymous coward of a reader noted, "Also interesting whitepaper on out of box experience comparing a Dell blade solution integrated from the factory vs an IBM and HP solution ordered al-a-carte. HP and IBM can integrate from the factory also, Dell just didn't order them that way."

Jonathan Kaiser chipped in with, "HP (in EMEA) now offer full factory integration on ALL Proliant servers from regular tower models through to Blades. Not only is this open to their direct enterprise customer base but it is also accessible by any channel reseller via an HP distributor (HP Top Config). The pick and mix option approach is great for next day availability but rarely are 100% of the parts in the channel which means a back order on the vendor (10 day wait anyway!). So you might as well just order it in one box and have everything turn up in one go!"

And Matt Bryant said, "HP and IBM offer either factory built or 'bunch of boxes' type deliveries. The latter offers their channel partners the chance to make some revenue by offering build services, or their customers with the skills to save some cash by self-assembly. It will be interesting to see if Dell's new-found love for the channel translates into the same type of setup, otherwise their channel partners may just stick to pushing HP and IBM (or any of the other brands that allow build services)."

We're pretty sure that Bryant is correct there, noting that HP and IBM will charge for the pre-packaged gear whereas Dell offers that as standard. Apparently, this can be a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective.

Virtual Nothingness

A friend who works at HP chastised us for failing to highlight one of the major things missing from Dell's systems - an equivalent copy of HP's Virtual Connect technology. Customers can use HP's Virtual Connect system to create abstract ties between thousands of virtual and physical servers and their associated storage. (In short, Virtual Connect ties Ethernet Media Access Control (MAC) addresses and Fibre Channel Worldwide Names (WWNs) to server bays.)

In Nov., IBM fought back against HP's Virtual Connect by unveiling Open Fabric Manager - a very similar set of technology.

According to a source, Dell hoped to copy Virtual Connect via a deal with Brocade. Dell and Brocade aimed to make their technology easier to use. We have no idea if the Brocade arrangement is still in place, although we can confirm that Dell plans to make an announcement around expanding its virtualization technology very soon, likely within the next month.

Ultimately, it seems tough to argue against Dell's play with the M1000e. Unlike Sun, Dell is never going to make three or four different blade chassis to serve various markets - HPC, business and general purpose. Instead, Dell needs a basic unit that competes well in the core of the server market on price, performance and performance per watt. We think Dell has accomplished that goal.

In addition, Dell has chucked in some solid, basic features, including easy to use management interfaces (LCD and remote module) and an upgradeable networking unit that competes favorably against rivals.

Dell may have rushed the unit out the door missing a few features in order to make management happy, but, all in all, it issued a solid reentry into the blade game. ®

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