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Dell pitches x86 in Oracle's Sun court

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OpenWorld 09 Michael Dell has tuned his supersales pitch for the down economy: buy more, and buy frequently, to save more. Just don't buy Sparc.

Dell told OpenWorld that buying batches of his company's x86 machines running virtualization and the latest in power efficiency and increased processing power will let you claw back around 15 per cent in IT costs.

Those costs, Dell said, could then be channeled into strategic initiatives and new projects rather than simply burning the lights in ever-growing data centers.

Dell made the claim on stage at Oracle's annual conference while unveiling what he called a public commitment to save IT consumers $200bn in inefficiencies out of an annual total IT spend of $1.2Tn.

There was no action plan from Dell on how he'd deliver on the commitment, which meant Dell was saying the act of simply buying and installing his products was action enough.

Still, it was a step up from Dell's outing during Dreamforce last year, where the only thing missing were three cups, a pea, and a sharp-eyed colleague in the crowd looking out for rozzers, as he literally set out the stall for his company's wares.

This time it was data points all the way, to make the case.

As a first step to saving money, Dell reckoned organizations should standardize on low-cost, x86 server hardware and ditch expensive and proprietary servers such as Sun Microsystems and Tandem - as Dell did back in the 1980s.

Apparently, Dell didn't get the memo about OpenWorld host Oracle buying Sun or that OpenWorld message is that Oracle optimized for Sparc and Solaris - not x86 - are the preferred hardware and software course on the bridge of HMS Oracle.

It was a surreal moment during Dell's pitch then, when midway through the standard tediously scripted customer case study - on 7 Eleven - Oracle's chief executive Larry Ellison strode on stage to welcome Dell "back" to OpenWorld. Dell didn't make last year's keynote.

Amid a little surprise and mutual thank-yous and admissions that they are big customers of each other's "stuff," Ellison said he was "thrilled" to have Dell back at OpenWorld and noted Oracle runs all its development and testing on 20,000 Dell serves.

"Our partnership gets closer and closer," Dell said to Ellison. Just don't mention the Sun love thing.

Anyway, with Ellison then gone, Dell ploughed on. According to Dell's recipe for success, once you've got that solid base of x86 servers and dumped Sun, then cut down your number of images. Dell runs just a two: a Microsoft .Net and Oracle on Linux image.

Next virtualize: Dell reckons half of his company's 7,000 datacenter servers are virtualized, a move that'll save Dell at least $50m this year. Also, virtualization has helped Dell cut physical space. It's closing one of two overspill datacenters, Dell said. Automated server provisioning is next - but then that would be relatively simple with just two images.

Time for the product: Go for an "accelerated hardware refresh" or buy more servers and storage from Dell on a regular basis. Update 25 per cent, and the savings you reap will pay for the next 25 per cent of machines. Apparently.

Specifically, Dell directed customers towards his company's Energy-Star certified PowerEdge servers running Nehalem for increased performance and memory, and the EqualLogic ISCSI storage device for fast performance and data serving.

Dell could certainly use a regular stream of purchases from customers. Revenue fell 22 per cent during its most recent, second fiscal quarter, to $12.76bn. Net income fell 23 per cent to $472m year-over-year, with both PC and enterprise sales dropping - although the latter were up a little sequentially. Dell has been cutting staff and facilities to control costs during the economic downturn. ®

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