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Dell girds iron from the tower to the blade

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Nehalem Day Dell has officially announced its new "Nehalem EP" server lineup.

You already got the sales pitch for the servers from Dell based on Intel's "Nehalem EP" Xeon 5500 processors last week, so there is no point in going over that ground again today.

Let's get down to the feeds and speeds, starting with the PowerEdge tower box, then the two rack machines, and on to the two blade servers. All of them are, of course, two-socket machines.

Like Hewlett-Packard, IBM (to a certain degree), and Fujitsu (in its incarnations in Asia and Europe), Dell sells a lot of tower servers to small and medium businesses, and this new Nehalem-based tower, the T610, is not just a product to flesh out the company's spec sheets. At many companies, the tower server is basically the data center, and at others, they are used in departments and remote offices and nonetheless represent the local computing available to end users.

The T610 uses a motherboard based on the "Tylersburg" 5520 chipset from Intel and supports the dual-core or quad-core variants of the Xeon 5500 series of chips. The exact feeds and speeds of the Nehalems used in the T610 were not provided by Dell at press time, but there are eleven different Nehalem EPs that I have been able to identify prior to the Intel launch event in Santa Clara this afternoon.

The odds favor the T610 supporting the lowest cost options for sure, and there is no technical reason the box can't use the fastest ones. The T610 mobo has a dozen DDR3 memory slots and supports up to 96 GB of main memory using 8 GB DIMMs. 1GB, 2GB, and 4GB DIMMs are a lot less expensive than 8 GB DIMMs and are also supported.

The Dell Nehalem tower server has two PCI-Express x8 slots and three PCI-Express 2.0 x4 slots, which is plenty of I/O capability for a tower server. The T610 server has an integrated SAS RAID controller and other optional controllers with more stuff that can plug into peripheral slots. The server has room for eight 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disks and can also be rejiggered to support eight 3.5-inch SAS or SATA drives. It has a dual-port Gigabit Ethernet interface on the mobo and additional Gigabit Ethernet and 10 Gigabit Ethernet adapters can be plugged into the motherboard for more or faster networking.

In terms of operating systems, Windows Server 2008 and Windows Storage Server are certified on the T610, as are Novell's NetWare 6.5 and SUSE Linux 10 SP2 and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5.2. The server has flash-based embedded hypervisors for server virtualization, including special Dell editions of XenServer Express and XenServer Enterprise from Citrix Systems and ESXi 3.5 from VMware.

The PowerEdge R610 is a rack variant of the T610 that crams the system into a 1U form factor. It supports the dual-core or quad-core Nehalem EP chips. Again, speeds were not given for the processors that Dell is offering in this R610 server, but considering the compactness of the box, it is possible that the fastest, 90-watt parts are not supported unless they use the Turbo Mode features of the Nehalem processors, which allow customers to shut off some of the cores to conserve power and reduce heat under heavy computing workloads.

The R610 has two PCI-Express 2.0 x8 peripheral slots and room for up to six 2.5-inch SAS or SATA disk drives or 2.5-inch SSD disks. (You can obviously mix disks and SSDs, and many customers will be encouraged to do so to boost I/O performance). The R610 is being offered with a "high efficient" 502-watt EnergySmart power supply as well as a 717-watt "high output" power supply.

The R610 supports Windows Server 2008, NetWare 6.5, SUSE Linux 10 SP2, and RHEL 5.2, just like the T610, but Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 is also supported on the machine by Dell. The hypervisor options are all the same.

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Next page: On the rack

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