Dell expands server and storage lines for datacentre virtualisation

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Dell expands server and storage lines for datacentre virtualisation

Aims to move beyond reducing cost.

Dell has added new storage and server products to its datacentre line-up as the vendor continues to position itself as the infrastructure provider of choice for enterprise virtualisation and on-premise cloud deployments.

Among the kit announced this week are PowerEdge blade servers designed for high-density and high-performance compute roles, plus additions to Dell's storage arrays including iSCSI units with automated tier support between solid-state drives (SSDs) and SAS drives.

Dell also highlighted a new version of its EqualLogic firmware that lets iSCSI storage arrays offload some file operations from the hypervisor in VMware environments, boosting performance and greatly reducing SAN traffic, according to Dell.

Described as "virtualisation optimised", the PowerEdge M710HD is the industry's first half-height server blade, according to Dell, which means that twice as many can be crammed into an M-series chassis.

Despite this, the M710HD is a two-socket system based on Intel's quad-core or six-core Xeon processors and up to 192GB of memory. Each blade also has hot-swappable hard drives and two Flash memory cards for bare-metal hypervisor operation.

The latter feature removes one of the few remaining single points of failure in a server, according to Forrest Norrod, vice president of Dell Server Platforms.

"This brings a whole new level of performance and memory capacity without compromising on reliability," he said.

A second blade server, the M610x, is designed for HPC and online transaction processing roles. This is also a two-socket Xeon system, but supports two full-bandwidth PCI Express slots that can be filled with Nvidia Tesla GPU cards for up to 1,030 gigaflops of floating-point performance or Fusion-io's high-performance SSDs for over 120,000 input/output operations per second, Dell said.

Dell also announced a rack-mount server, the PowerEdge R715, which uses AMD's 6100 series Opteron chips to deliver 24 processor cores and up to 256GB memory in a 2U chassis.

On the storage side, the EqualLogic PS6000XVS and PS6010XVS iSCSI arrays can be provisioned half with SSDs and half with 15,000 RPM SAS drives for tiered storage. The devices automatically manage tiering based on the access requests for specific data.

"It watches the data and when it sees requests above a certain threshold, that data gets moved to SSD," explained Darren Thomas, vice president for Dell Storage.

This feature, part of the EqualLogic firmware v5.0 update, can reduce the time taken to boot up multiple virtual desktop images by up to 76 per cent, he claimed.

A typical configuration might consist of eight 100GB SSDs and eight 450GB hard drives. The PS6000XVS has dual gigabit Ethernet ports, while the PS6010XVS has 10Gbit/s Ethernet ports.

Another feature of the new firmware is the ability to offload some operations from the hypervisor, such as thin provisioning and copying of data, reducing SAN traffic by 95 per cent and CPU utilisation by 75 per cent for these operations.

Currently, this feature is supported only for VMware environments, but Dell said it is working to implement the same capabilities for customers using Citrix Xen Server or Microsoft Hyper-V.

For smaller businesses, Dell expanded its PowerVault line with the MD3200 and MD3200i storage arrays, which support up to 96 drives when used with an expansion enclosure. The MD3200 has SAS ports for connectivity, while the MD3200i has iSCSI.

Dell has also added six new business-ready configurations based around its blade servers, these being pre-configured bundles of server, hypervisor, storage and network kit, aimed at reducing the cost of rollout for customers.

Dell said the new products are part of its approach to help customers move on from seeing virtualisation as merely a way to reduce costs through consolidation, to building an infrastructure that is flexible enough to meet changing demands.

"I don't really want to say 'cloud' because that is a much abused term, but an on-premise cloud is the end state of the journey customers are on, and we're focused on helping them move quickly along that journey," said Thomas.

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