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Dell unveils new servers to stay competitive

The computer maker announces two new four-processor servers as part of its push to take on Sun Microsystems and others as a provider of Internet infrastructure.

Dell Computer is touting two new four-processor servers to keep the company competitive with Hewlett-Packard, IBM and Compaq Computer.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker yesterday announced its new PowerEdge 6400 and 6450 servers, each capable of housing up to four Pentium III Xeon chips, as part of its push to take on Sun Microsystems and others as a provider of Internet infrastructure.

The new Dell machines take on new systems from IBM, which just announced its four-processor Netfinity 6000R, and Hewlett-Packard, which recently announced an unusual six-processor server that it is selling at the price of a four-way machine.

But the real competition for Dell is with Compaq, long the leader in selling Intel-based servers. According to market research firm International Data Corp., Compaq had 32.6 percent of the worldwide market share for Intel servers in the fourth quarter of 1999; Dell was in second place with 14.4 percent. In the United States, Compaq had 36.2 percent and Dell again was in second place with 23.6 percent.

As is customary across the company's product line, Dell will continue to gain market share by offering servers more quickly and at a lower cost, said server brand manager John Pollock.

ServerWorks, which designs essential supporting electronics called the chipset, is helping Dell achieve that goal by bringing higher performance and new features to standard servers.

Dell's strength has been in selling standard Intel-based hardware better than its competitors, but it is weaker when it comes to fancy features such as "chipkill," which allows a computer to function even when a memory module fails. With the new ServerWorks HE chipset, though, chipkill is coming to the masses.

IBM, Dell, Compaq, HP and others all use the ServerWorks chipset in favor of earlier models from Intel. In addition to enabling chipkill with ordinary memory chips instead of more expensive proprietary chips, the ServerWorks chipset allows higher-speed communications with devices such as network cards.

ServerWorks, formerly known as Reliance Computer Corporation (RCC), has plans to go public.

The Dell 6450 is rack-mountable and 7 inches tall. The 6400 is 12 inches tall but can hold more disk drives and can stand alone.

Typical configurations will cost about $20,000, Pollock said. The machines can be ordered now and will be shipping by the end of the month.

The servers come with the 550-MHz "Tanner" series Xeon processor today, but will be able to use the newer 700-MHz "Cascades" models when Intel introduces them.

The Xeons are the only chips from Intel that can be used in four-processor or eight-processor configurations. Current Xeons come with 512K, 1MB or 2MB of secondary cache, special high-speed memory that keeps a CPU fed with information. The Cascades chips will come with either 1MB or 2MB, Pollock said.

The Dell servers based on the older Xeon design will be phased out in August or September, Pollock said.

The newer Cascades chips, built on a more advanced 0.18-micron manufacturing process than the 0.25-micron Tanner chips, are due later this quarter, said Intel spokesman Otto Pipjker.