late September, 1999, Dell Computer Corporation began shipments of its eight-CPU
Intel server, the PowerEdge 8450. The PowerEdge 8450 is part of the next generation
of Intel servers (along with offerings from Compaq, HP, IBM, and others) which
utilize the Profusion chipset. (This chipset allows servers to break through
the previous limitation of four CPUs for the Intel architecture.) The PE 8450
is based on Intel's OCPRF100 server (also known as "Saber"), which Dell has
modified to improve its serviceability and to add an improved peripheral bay.
product is geared toward the enterprise computing segment. As with most enterprise-class
servers, the 8450 must be racked, and needs other hardware (primarily disk drives)
to support its configuration. This product is aimed at the large datacenter/data
warehouse environments, as well as other large-scale computing environments.
The 8450 will also be used to consolidate and upgrade existing servers.
main competitors in this space are Compaq, HP, and IBM. There are other vendors
producing eight-way Intel servers (e.g. Unisys, Hitachi), but we do not believe
they will be serious market share competitors. (Market share figures for Intel
servers is shown in Table 1 and Graph 1.) In general, the Intel server market
is growing, and these products will satisfy pent-up demand, but we do not expect
the volumes to be significant (when compared to four-way servers) until next
1: Intel Server Market Share 2Q '99
Strategy and Trajectory
is positioning the PowerEdge 8450 series to address business-critical applications
in three key market areas:
Compute- and memory-intense applications (e.g. large databases)
Enterprise messaging (e.g. MS Exchange)
Multi-user Windows NT applications
Server consolidation and scalable enterprise computing
Dell is focusing on large enterprises and enterprise applications. In addition
to its aggressive and focused growth in the last three years, Dell is now moving
toward being a complete solution provider. This is evident from the recent deal
with IBM Global Services for customer service and support, as well as the recent
contract where the PowerEdge servers will run Sun's Solaris operating system.
the eight-way servers (in general) are now the most powerful Intel servers available,
this position is expected to last only until Merced/McKinley arrive 12 months
from now for Merced (80% probability), two years for McKinley (60% probability).
Since McKinley, not Merced, is expected to provide the performance leap, this
should give the current eight-way servers approximately 18-24 months at the
top of the Intel scale. After that, these systems become "mid-range" products.
Until Merced ships, we expect the market size for eight-way servers to be approximately
$5-$8 Billion. (Note: Merced will not immediately "cannibalize" the market for
eight-way servers, because of the change from the current IA-32 architecture
to Merced's IA-64 architecture. This change will effect much more than hardware,
and therefore migration will not be immediate.)
and Price/Performance: Dell's record of excellent price/performance is expected
to continue with the PE 8450. We expect the only close competition to be from
Compaq ($18.46/tpmC for the ProLiant 8500). We also expect Dell to meet or exceed
Compaq's mark of 40,368 tpmC (also for the ProLiant 8500) within three months.
Feature Set: Dell has provided PCI Hot Plug for Windows NT 4.0, correcting
a deficiency present in the PowerEdge 6300/6350. In addition, the PE 8450 has
four 66 MHz PCI slots, more than the two available from Compaq.
The PowerEdge 8450 has tool-free access to, and removal of, all the key components
about which a customer (or service technician) would care: power supplies, fans,
disk drives, PCI slots. These features exceed those available in the Intel design,
but Compaq's ProLiant 8X00 holds a slight edge here.
customer satisfaction is very high, we expect that will continue.
OS Support: Until the end of October, the 8450 will only support the various
versions of Windows NT, in contrast to the competition which offers Novell NetWare,
SCO UNIX/UnixWare, et al. (Solaris support will be available in late October,
NetWare is scheduled to be available in late November.) Windows NT is not yet
considered a robust enterprise-class OS, so the lack of alternatives is a deficiency.
Dell will certify other OSes (through its DellPlus group), but this is a less
compelling message than having those OSes installed in a production environment.
Voltage Support: The PowerEdge 8450 requires 208VAC, unlike Compaq's ProLiant
8000 and 8500, which can run off either 110 VAC or 208 VAC. Although 208VAC
is required for either system (Compaq or Dell) to run a fully-loaded server,
having the option is a modest benefit.
Although Dell's system provides redundancy in most subsystems (fans, power supplies,
etc.), there are a couple of areas where there could be improvement. In the
power subsystem, Dell has redundant power supplies, while Compaq has redundant
Voltage Regulator Modules (VRMs) in addition to the redundant system supplies.
(Note that redundant supplies have become a requirement not an added feature
for enterprise class systems.) For cooling: the system is characterized by
Dell as N+1 redundant, that is five fans plus one backup fan. Customers may
prefer 2N redundancy, for a broader safety margin.
As mentioned earlier, Dell purchases the board set directly from Intel. Given
that, the logical conclusion would be that Intel would be able to release this
system for shipment before Compaq could ship the ProLiant 8X00. However, this
has not happened, due to the current problems with some of the Xeon 550 MHz
processors and how they work with the Saber board set (See TEC's News Analysis:
in Intel Xeon 550 Chip Set: Shipments Stopped" September 29th, 1999). This
is not Dell's fault, and it will not be a long-term problem, but the situation
bears scrutiny nonetheless.
Dell has made its name in the Windows NT market, it should consider offering
more than just one factory-installed operating system. UNIX is not dead, and
the acquisition of ConvergeNet (with its ability to operate SANs in heterogeneous
OS environments) should lead Dell into more than just NT. The ConvergeNet acquisition
also allows Dell to provide a more flexible SAN solution than it had previously,
and Dell should market this aspect aggressively. Using the DellPlus organization
to provide installation and support for other OSes is a way of addressing this,
but customers may prefer a factory installed solution.
should use its clout with Intel to get power supplies that operate in either
voltage range (110/208 VAC), since this puts Dell at a disadvantage relative
to Compaq and IBM.
PowerEdge 8450 is a good choice for those clients who have high-end computing
environments, such as data warehouses or server consolidation, and users who
need high performance computing plus the flexibility of mixing and matching
components in a rack. The feature set and hardware reliability features are
good, and the only technology concern is based in the Profusion chipset, due
to its newness. However, Dell's use of an Intel-designed board set should reduce
Profusion-related concerns, after the current Xeon/Saber problems are resolved.
limited OS offerings should be used as leverage, especially by customers who
need something other than Windows NT.
OS: Operating System
VRM: Voltage Regulator Module (used to provide DC power directly
to the processors)
SAN: Storage Area Network
ERP: Enterprise Resource Planning
Solaris: UNIX-like OS produced by Sun Microsystems
Netware: Network operating system produced by Novell
SCO: Santa Cruz Operation, developer of SCO UNIX, UnixWare