Dell diversifies with fixed server offerings

Dell's fixed system configurations for enterprises will include servers, storage and software

Dell on Wednesday said it would offer pre-configured systems for enterprise customers looking to get server environments up and running quickly.

The fixed configurations include servers, storage modules and software that are pretested and can be deployed in hours, Dell officials said. The offerings are a diversification from Dell's traditional built-to-order business model, in which customers typically specify configurations before ordering.

Dell is offering fixed systems as an option to custom-built systems that could take longer to configure and deploy, said Praveen Asthana, Dell's director of enterprise storage.

"The goal is speed," Asthana said. "Now we're saying you can be up and running in 30 minutes, not in a week."

The systems are targeted at customers like small- and- medium businesses who may lack expertise in server deployment, or to those who want to quickly deploy servers with applications like virtualization.

Dell is perhaps one of the first server vendors to offer server packages out of the box, said Charles King, principal analyst with Pund-IT. During the recession, the bundles are an inexpensive way for customers to upgrade hardware infrastructure and to quickly deploy applications, he said.

"Dell is recognizing that there are certain application areas where pre-configuration trumps custom systems, specifically in the server space," King said.

For example, the systems are good for SMBs who want virtualization, but don't have the manpower or technical know-how to deploy the application over a range of servers. Virtualization is generally employed mostly larger server environments like data centers, but is now reaching smaller server environments, King said.

The fixed systems could also appeal to larger enterprises that want to deploy server environments to run high-performance tasks, King said. Businesses then don't have to worry about configuring the operating system or software to run high-performance tasks like image processing.

Depending on the target customer, the configurations include different servers, storage and software products. Packages for SMBs include Dell's PowerEdge R710 servers, PowerVault MD3000i storage modules and Microsoft's virtualization suite, with prices starting at US$10,000.

For large enterprises, Dell includes PowerEdge M-series blades, EqualLogic PS6000 iSCSI storage technology and VMWare's virtualization software with prices starting at US$211,300.

Customers may not want all hardware or software exacting the fixed configurations, so minor adjustments can be made, Dell said. For example, minor adjustments can be made on types of servers or the virtualization software.

The prepackaged hardware bundles also includes consulting services from Dell to get server infrastructures up and running quickly. The systems will be available worldwide.

Dell plans to add client PCs in the future to fixed system configurations, Asthana said. That should help deliver a complete pre-configured hardware infrastructure to enterprises.

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