Dell Inks OEM Deal with Egenera for Server Management Software
Published: March 27, 2008
by Timothy Prickett Morgan
Seeking to get any advantage it can over server and storage rivals IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and a somewhat resurgent Sun Microsystems, Dell yesterday announced that it would be certifying the PAN Manager systems and virtualization management software created by Egenera on Dell's PowerEdge server line.
The announcement did not come as a big surprise, of course. Back in October 2007, when Egenera announced that it was going to make its Processor Area Network Manager infrastructure virtualization and management software available on an OEM basis to the makers of other server gear, it was pretty obvious that Dell would very likely be the first vendor to make use of PAN Manager because its management tools are not as robust as those from IBM and HP. Both IBM and HP are far more interested in taking the tools from their high-end servers and extending them down into the X64 space for Windows and Linux servers than they are letting someone else get in on the action, and they have bought companies or developed tools to keep this lucrative business in house. The mystery really is why Dell, which has been a bit acquisitive, didn't just acquire Egenera last year and pitch the BladeFrame machines and their PAN Manager software as the alternative to big iron Unix, mainframe, and i5/OS boxes. That may yet happen, of course. Particularly if the economy heads south in a big way or the financial services companies where Egenera has had a lot of its business lock up their IT budgets.
The PAN Manager software is what makes the BladeFrame a platform and not just a bunch of servers sitting in a rack. The collection of software is used to provision, monitor, and manage virtualized blade servers, their related networks, and storage area networks that feed data to the blades. The software also has built in high availability clustering for workloads. Back in December 2001, the BladeFrames only supported Linux, but Windows Server 2003 was supported in May 2003 and in December 2005 the company added support for Solaris 10 to the BladeFrame iron and its related systems software.
Last fall, Mike Thompson, president and chief executive officer at Egenera, said that the company had no plans of abandoning its BladeFrame hardware business, and that remains true to this day. But now that the first big OEM deal is signed, Thompson today conceded that there could be some impact on hardware sales now that PAN Manager will be available on Dell's PowerEdge line. "We think there could be some cannibalization of BladeFrame sales, but we also think that there will be tremendous pull as well for PAN Manager from Dell." Thompson says that given the newness of the OEM business, he is not building cannibalization into the current revenue plan for BladeFrame sales. He also says that even if Dell does sell a lot of iron with PAN Manager software on it, Egenera can still continue to pitch the BladeFrame as a high-end, integrated offering. The main thing is that Dell has thousands of salespeople pushing gear in data centers compared to the dozens that Egenera can put into the field.
So what about other server makers? Are they lining up to resell PAN Manager? Thompson is not saying. "Our focus right now is on Dell and making this partnership highly successful," he says. "This is the first global OEM partner for us, and we love the fact that we are getting PAN Manager on low-cost, industry standard servers," says Thompson. "We believe that that PAN Manager will allow Dell to leapfrog IBM and HP, in fact. While IBM and HP have good management tools, and they have enhanced virtualization, they have not done full infrastructure, data center virtualization, including the network.
Dell is expected to support PAN Manager among its customers in the United States first and then roll the software out to the rest of its customers gradually. Pricing for the software will be based on the number of sockets in the server that are being managed by the Egenera code, and it is expected to be generally available at the end of June or so. (Exact pricing will be announced then and was not available today.) Dell is also engaging its infrastructure consulting services people to push PAN Manager as a server consolidation and infrastructure virtualization offering. Dell currently supports Windows, Linux, and Solaris on its PowerEdge servers, and it is expected that PAN Manager will be able to manage all three of these platforms. By putting Solaris into the mix, Dell can take a run on the Sparc/Solaris installed base and make as credible a sales pitch as Sun itself can make with its "Galaxy" X64 server line running Solaris 10. All the more reason to think that Sun might swoop in and buy Egenera if Dell's OEM deal gets it traction in the Sun customer base.
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