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Dell grows Intel 'Nehalem EP' iron

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Server makers continue to expand their server lineups for Intel's four-core 'Nehalem EP' Xeon 5500 processors, and today, it was Dell's turn to roll out some new boxes: two new tower servers and a low-end rack server.

After doing some arm twisting or pleading with Intel executives (or maybe both), Dell was able to preview its Nehalem EP boxes, the PowerEdge 11G lineup, the week before the actual chip launched. On Nehalem Day, Dell put one tower server (the T610), two rack servers (the R610 and R710), and two blade servers (the M610 and M710) into the field using the Nehalem EP chips. (You can get all the feeds and speeds on those machines here).

Like the other Nehalem machines announced thus far, the PowerEdge R410 debuting today is a two-socket machine and it uses Intel's 'Tylersburg' 5520 chipset. But the R410 has a lot of the enterprise-class features ripped out of it to lower its price, making it suitable for parallel compute clusters, where price and performance are the main issues, or remote office sites, where such features are legs on a snake. The R410 is a 1U rack server that supports most of the Nehalem EP chips, but not the top-end W5580 chip (which runs at 3.2 GHz and which burns at 130 watts) and the X5570 chip (which runs at 2.93 GHz and burns at 95 watts).

The R410 has its memory trimmed back too, supporting only four DDR3 slots per socket, for a maximum of 64 GB using 8 GB DIMMs. (The other PowerEdge Nehalem EP boxes support 96 GB or 144 GB of memory, the latter being the maximum supported by the Xeon 5500 processors and 5520 chipset at the moment). The R410 can support four 2.5-inch or 3.5-inch drives (either SATA or SAS), and RAID disk controllers are optional, not standard. The R410 system board has only one PCI-Express 2.0 slot (an x16 slot), plus a mezzanine slot for various disk controllers with different RAID level support. The system has two integrated Gigabit Ethernet ports and comes with a 480-watt power supply.

The PowerEdge R410 can have Microsoft's Windows Server 2008 as well as Novell's SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 SP2 and Red Hat's Enterprise Linux 5.2 installed at the Dell factory. SLES 11, RHEL 4.7 and 5.3, and Windows Server 2003 are not pre-installed, but can be bought with the box. HPC customers can get Microsoft Windows HPC Server 2008 or RHEL 5 for HPC preinstalled if they are building clusters.

A PowerEdge R410 with a single E5520 processor running at 2.26 GHz with 1 GB of memory and the on-board SATA disk controller (no mezzanine card, which costs an extra $199 or 299, depending on the RAID level and the number of drives the card supports), a 500 GB SATA drive, and no operating system has a list price of $4,821. Adding a second processor boosts the price to $5,759.

The PowerEdge T410 is a tower configuration of the entry R410 rack box, and it looks like it can run the two top-end Nehalem EP chips as well as the rest of the chips supported in the R410. The T410 has the same basic feeds and speeds as the R410, but its tower box has room for six disk drives in its 5U box and more peripheral expansion, with four PCI-Express x8 slots plus the one x16 slot. In the same configuration as the R410 - 1 GB of memory, a 500 GB disk, and no operating system - the T410 costs $3,147. That second E5520 processor boosts the price to $3,745.

The difference in price between the supposedly inexpensive HPC model (the R410) and the tower machine (the T410) is a bit perplexing. It looks like Dell is planning deep discounts for HPC customers that want low-end rack servers and not too deep discounts for SMBs who tend to buy towers in onesies and twosies.

The new high-end tower server, the PowerEdge T710, was also announced today but is not going to be available for a few weeks. The machine is not yet out there on Dell's site, so you won't find it there if you go poking around. But according to the spec sheet for the box (also not out there), the T710 is basically a tower version of the R710 rack box, with more disk and peripheral expansion.

The T710 has the full complement of DDR3 memory slots, so it can support up to 144 GB of main memory using 8 GB DIMMs. The server has six PCI-Express 2.0 slots: one x16, one x4, and four x8 slots. A variety of SATA and SAS RAID disk controllers are available for the machine, which has room for up to sixteen 2.5-inch drives or eight 3.5-inch drives, for a maximum of 8 TB of internal storage using SAS drives (3.5-inch) and 4.8 TB using SAS drives (2.5-inch). Support for 3.5-inch drives is optional, not standard, by the way, on the T710.

The box has two two-port Gigabit Ethernet NICs with failover and load balancing on the ports, and can have additional Gigabit and 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports added. The T710 supports Windows 2008, Red Hat Enterprise Linux 5, and SUSE Linux Enterprise Server 10 as standard and will be certified to run Sun Microsystems' Solaris 10 Unix at some point in the future. The box will also support VMware's ESXi 4.0 and Microsoft's Hyper-V as embedded hypervisors.

Pricing for the T710 will not be announced until the box is shipping.

Sally Stevens, director of server product marketing at Dell, says that the PowerEdge line will eventually be refreshed with the single-socket Xeon 3500 versions of the Nehalem EP chips, including the PowerEdge 110, 210, and 310 servers. Stevens did not say when Dell would get 11G servers in the field supporting Advanced Micro Devices' six-core 'Istanbul' Opterons, but Dell's online store says that the PowerEdge R805 and R905 rack servers and the M605, M805, and M905 blade servers can support the six-core Istanbuls, but they are not orderable online yet in these boxes. (Since this story was posted, Dell has contacted us and said the Istanbul chips will ship in these machines before the end of June.)

In addition to the new machines that came out today, Dell also said that VMware's ESX Server 4.0 and ESXi 4.0 hypervisors and Citrix Systems' XenServer 5.1 hypervisor are supported on 37 of its PowerEdge 10G and 11G machines. Support for Microsoft's Hyper-V R2 is coming later this year, according to Stevens, and presumably so is support for the Citrix Essentials tools for XenServer 5.5 and Hyper-V, the collaborative effort between Citrix and Microsoft.

Dell also rolled out a bunch of "business ready" configurations of servers and storage aimed at server virtualization and consolidation projects and relayed ProConsult virtualization and disaster recovery planning services. Dell is also peddling PlateSpin server virtualization management and Vizioncore storage virtualization tools as part of its bundles. You can find out all about these services and partnerships here. ®

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