Dell shores up low end of server line

Dell Computer on Monday released a pair of servers with Intel Corp. chip technology that comparable servers from competitors don't yet feature, thus offering small-and medium-sized business customers more powerful systems.

The new servers are the PowerEdge 600SC and PowerEdge 2600, which feature higher processor speeds and better input/output performance over the systems' Dell predecessors and over similar servers from competitors.

"These systems have the next generation bus architecture and processors from Intel that most of the vendors will come out with shortly," said Mark Melenovsky, research director at IDC in Framingham, Massachusetts. "Dell has hit that segment first with the new refresh of products."

The PowerEdge 600SC is a one-processor tower server aimed at small and medium businesses that uses either Intel's Celeron or Pentium 4 chips. The larger PowerEdge 2600 can house two Xeon processors and comes with several redundant components that make it more attractive to large companies, said Russ Ray, senior product manager for Dell PowerEdge servers.

The PowerEdge 600SC is available immediately with a Celeron processor running at 1.7GHz or with a Pentium 4 processor running at 1.8GHz or 2.4GHz, Ray said. The system uses the ServerWorks Inc. GC-SL Chipset with a 400MHz front side bus, which provides a nice jump over the 500SC's 133MHz front side bus with a Pentium III processor. The additional processing power and throughput boost overall system performance by a large margin over Dell's current 500SC server, Ray said.

The server will also ship with up to 4G bytes of memory, five PCI (peripheral component interconnect) slots and four hard-disk drives. Dell will offer both 120G-byte IDE (Integrated Drive Electronics) and 73G-byte SCSI (small computer system interface) drives with PowerEdge 600SC in a RAID (redundant array of independent disks) configuration.

Dell has started selling the new PowerVault 100T Travan40 internal tape drive as an add-on to this server. The drive starts at AUD$599 and offers up to 40G bytes of capacity with software compression, Ray said.

One user said the options to use SCSI drives in a RAID configuration, large amounts of memory and a faster front side bus make the system a true server as opposed to just a beefed-up PC.

"It's not a glorified desktop in that it has upgrade options," said Arturo Castellanos, director of Web services at online travel company GeoPassage Corp., in Austin, Texas. "The limiting factor with a desktop is that once you configure it, you are stuck."

Castellanos said that "bang for buck" the server appeared to be a good buy.

The higher-end PowerEdge 2600 will ship with up to two Xeon processors running at 1.8GHz, 2GHz, 2.2GHz or 2.4GHz and with up to 6G bytes of memory. The system houses up to 8 SCSI hard drives and comes with redundant, hot-plug power supplies and fans.

"This server fits into the upper end for small and medium businesses and is the starting point for many enterprises," Ray said. The server can handle file and print serving tasks as well as higher-end software like enterprise databases.

Both of the new servers hit the sweet-spot of Dell's business where it has been able to gain market share against competitors such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM Corp., Melenovsky said.

"These new products further their penetration in the small and medium business segment," Melenovsky said. "They really pegged this spot in 2001 when they saw the enterprise market collapsing."

The systems will ship with Microsoft Corp.'s Windows 2000 server operating system or Red Hat Inc.'s Linux distribution. The 600SC starts at $1,319 with Intel Celeron processors, and $1,629 with Pentium 4 processors. Customers can also combine the server and PowerVault 100T-Travan40 tape drive for $1,909.

Prices for the PowerEdge service start at $4,309. All prices include GST.

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Ashlee Vance

Computerworld

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