Dell intros hardware, services to optimize virtual machines

New blade servers and an iSCSI storage-area network on tap

Dell announced Wednesday a broad set of services and hardware designed to optimize both storage and server virtualization.

New AMD-based blade servers and an iSCSI storage-area network address a performance problem that occurs in highly virtualized environments, namely that loading too many virtual servers onto a single piece of hardware puts stress on memory and network bandwidth, slowing everything down.

"It's like putting too much weight on the back of a pickup truck," says analyst Charles King of Pund-IT.

Dell's PowerEdge M905 blade server offers four sockets, compared with just one or two in previous generations, King says. Dell says the M905 can support 66 virtual machines. According to King, performance on a typical server can slow down even if it holds just a dozen virtual machines.

Increased memory capacity is a key factor, King says. Standard one- or two-way servers top out at 16 or 32 gigabytes of memory, while Dell's new box goes up to 128 gigabytes, he says.

Dell also released a new two-socket blade called the PowerEdge M805, but said it holds more DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots than previous two-socket machines. Later this month, Dell will update its Intel-based PowerEdge R900 rack-mounted system with six-core processors and embedded hypervisors.

Increased bandwidth and performance is also coming with new 10Gb Ethernet and 8Gb Fibre Channel switches, Dell says.

On the storage front, Dell announced a new EqualLogic iSCSI SAN array that doubles density and triples capacity, going up to 576 terabytes with a single management interface. The new EqualLogic PS5500E can be used to consolidate "common tiered business data and applications such as file services, ... databases and virtual server environments," Dell says.

The array also enhances data protection for virtual storage with a feature that integrates EqualLogic snapshots with VMware's hypervisor, providing faster online backups and restorations of virtual machines and file systems. This feature will be available this month as a free download to customers who have support contracts.

Dell's goal is to integrate storage and server virtualization, storage marketing director Praveen Asthana said in a conference call with reporters. The PS5500E starts at US$78,000.

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"It's not enough to offer storage, you need to integrate as much as possible," he said.

Dell's blitz of new products comes a few days in advance of VMworld, an annual virtualization industry event hosted by VMware.

More pieces of the announcement include:

  • Pricing for the PowerEdge M805 and M905 starts at US$1,699 and US$4,999, respectively.
  • Integration with Microsoft virtualization technology, making Windows Server 2008 and Hyper-V available as a factory-installed option on PowerEdge servers. Microsoft's System Center Virtual Machine Manager is also available for PowerEdge servers.
  • Integration of EqualLogic storage with Citrix XenServer, making it easier "for IT managers to create snapshots, clones and single client images."
  • Infrastructure consulting services for Hyper-V deployments, involving assessment, design and implementation of the Microsoft hypervisor.
  • Site Recovery Manager for VMware environments, involving consultancy services to prepare a disaster recovery plan and help customers configure VMware's Site Recovery Manager software, which automates disaster recovery.
  • Lifecycle management for VMware, a service involving design and implementation planning, proof-of-concept and configuration of VMware's lifecycle manager.