Dell Goes After SMBs With Data Center In A Box
June 17, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
With the ever-increasing miniaturization of electronic components, it should be easy to cram a baby data center into a box that does not make a lot of noise and is therefore suitable for small and midrange businesses to park in their offices or for larger companies to plunk in their remote offices. Six years ago, Hewlett-Packard jumped in with its variant on the theme with the “Shorty” BladeSystem c3000 system and a few weeks later IBM countered with its BladeCenter S baby blade server. Now Dell is taking a run at SMBs with a new system it is calling the PowerEdge VRTX.
IBM has not updated the BladeCenter S since it added Power7 processors to it back in August 2010. But as The Four Hundred reported back in March, the Power7 processors are the end of the line for the PS7XX blade servers and they are not getting Power7+ chips or memory enhancements. This is all well and good–and expected–given that IBM wants to focus on its PureFlex modular systems, and as we reported in last week’s newsletter has even cooked up a special discounted bundle of hardware, IBM i and PowerVM software, and technical support services to make PureFlex more appealing to IBM i shops.
The trouble is, as I pointed out at the end of last year, we need a baby PureSystems running IBM i, something that looks and smells like a tower server but has multiple Power and X86 nodes, shared storage, integrated switching, and the Flex System Manager babysitting it all. What IBM i shops need is something that smells more like–and is priced more like–Dell’s PowerEdge VRTX.
The VRTX in the name of the new Dell system refers to vertex, and that is the origin where the X, Y, and Z axes come together in mathematics. The idea is that this is where servers, storage, and networking all come together inside one tower machine that is office friendly.
The PowerEdge VRTX machine mounts blade servers and disk drives into the front of the chassis, which you can see on the right side of the picture above. There are four two-socket blade servers–M520 blades using Intel‘s Xeon E5-2400 processors and M620 blades using Xeon E5-2600 processors. The latter have more cores, higher clocks, more cache memory, and higher costs than the former. Dell is not planning to do single-socket blades for the PowerEdge VRTX machine, but it might want to consider it to get the price point down lower for companies with more modest workloads.
On the right-hand side of the chassis there is room for 25 disk or flash drives in 2.5-inch form factors or 12 3.5-inch fatter SATA disks (which are also cheaper and popular among SMBs). Dell has embedded a PCI-Express 2.0 switch in the box and married it up with its PERC8 disk controller to create a shared storage infrastructure that can be shared by the four blades in the box. The setup has a 16-port Ethernet switch in the back with eight uplinks to the outside world; you can also buy an eight-port passthru adapter if you want the PowerEdge VRTX to link blades to an existing onsite switch. The machine also has a chassis management controller that has its own graphical user interface and is employed to manage all of the elements of the box from a single console. And it has a shared DVD and shared KVM switches to link a console to the box to manage the servers.
Dell’s plan is to have an entry configuration that is perfect for replacing a couple of tower servers running in a closet or under a desk with two PowerEdge M520 nodes and 3TB of storage for under $10,000. Bigger configurations will run $15,000 to $25,000, according to Dell. The PowerEdge VRTX is expected to ship by early July.
So, where is the baby Flex System box running IBM i on a single-socket p160+ or a dual-socket p260+ node, IBM? I was worried that Cisco Systems might go after your SMB customers, and it looks like Dell is trying to take a run at them. And it would be nice if a baby PureFlex had configured prices in the same range, too.