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Dell Nehalem men badmouth your servers

Old iron ain't free

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Old iron ain't free

Of those 32 million servers installed in the world, Intel estimates that about 40 per cent of them are single core machines, which seems about right. But more significantly for the Nehalem launch - and for the whole TCO argument - the maturation of server virtualization on x64 iron and the advent of QPI (which allows a lot more memory bandwidth to support virtualization) are going to allow server makers such as Dell to argue that they can consolidate those old single-core x86 and x64 boxes onto a lot fewer Nehalem machines.

How much compression can you expect? Skaugen said Intel calculated that over the installed base of single-core x86 and x64 boxes, a 9 to 1 compression of footprints was possible. If you do the math, and if this happens, that means 12.8 million servers could be compressed down to 1.4 million machines. So what will be driving this consolidation? The operating expense budget.

"We believe that the OpEx savings will be recovered in about eight months," said Skaugen, explaining that this includes software license consolidation as well as savings in server maintenance and power and cooling.

Brad Anderson, the senior vice president in charge of Dell's Enterprise Product Group, chimed in right after that, bashing old server iron. "There's this fallacy that if it is fully depreciated, then it is free. But old machines are the least efficient and the most expensive to keep around." Anderson used to run Hewlett-Packard's ProLiant server business, but has been at Dell since July 2005. He has spearheaded the development of the 20 new products and services that will be rolled out with the Nehalem-based gear, and their antecedents, such as the PowerEdge R710 server, which was optimized for virtual server workloads - meaning lots of memory and I/O capacity compared to a standard server, plus flash-based hypervisor support.

As for performance, Anderson did not provide any details, but he did say that the PowerEdge 11G products would deliver more than twice the performance per watt than their predecessors, the PowerEdge 10G servers. And Skaugen billed the Nehalem as having "the largest increase in performance in the history of the Xeon product line."

That sure doesn't sound like a 50 per cent bump in performance. But we'll see on Monday what the real numbers are.

But even with the feeds and speeds, you can expect every server maker to focus on the TCO angle, because that is going to push boxes more than performance gains in this rotten economy. "If you net this out, IT infrastructure consumes way too much time and way too much money," said Steve Schuckenbrock, president of Dell's global large enterprise operations in the Webcast. (Schuckenbrock babysits the Dell accounts with 500 or more employees). "We have to have a maniacal focus on taking out costs. And that doesn't just happen through services engagements that give you some short-term gains."

Take that, IBM and Hewlett-Packard. ®

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