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Dell overhauls server line

New PowerEdge rack and tower servers, with Intel's dual-core chips, have LCDs that give clearer picture when something's wrong. Photos: Dell's new lineup

Dell launched on Wednesday a new generation of servers with Intel's latest dual-core server processors and new management tools.

The new PowerEdge servers make up Dell's second batch of products that use dual-core Xeon chips from Intel. However, the earlier generation of servers, based on a chip code-named Paxville, weren't expected to be mass-market products. The PowerEdge 1950, 2900 and 2950, based on Intel's latest Xeon processor, known as Dempsey, will become the new bedrocks of Dell's server lineup.

Dell servers

Dempsey is a significant improvement in both power consumption and performance over Paxville, said Brad Anderson, the general manager of Dell's product group. But though the new servers are timed to the introduction of Intel's new chips, they also come with several new features, unrelated to performance and power consumption, that should help IT managers deal with complex environments, he said.

For example, Dell has installed a liquid-crystal display screen on the front of the new servers. The LCD screen can be programmed to display status messages or error warnings so technicians get can a clear picture of a pending problem without having to return to a management console, Anderson said. The company has also made sure its new management software, included with the servers, works well with software from partners like EMC and VMware.

"We're taking the chaos out of our customers' environments," Anderson said.

Dell has already signed aboard one customer for its PowerEdge 2950 server. Internet giant Google will use the servers as part of the search appliances the company plans to sell to large corporations and small companies. The appliances, which are expected carry a starting price of $30,000, are designed to provide search shortcuts for commonly asked questions.

The PowerEdge agreement with Google has no relation to an earlier deal the two companies announced last month, in which Google's Web and desktop search software would be pre-installed on Dell boxes, David Lord, a Dell spokesman, said Thursday.

Dell has worked on similar projects, in which it custom builds an item for resale under a partner's brand name. The Google appliances will feature Dell's hardware with Google's front panel.

Dell also introduced on Wednesday storage hardware to make it easier to set up and manage storage-area networks.

Since every server vendor that depends on Intel has jumped on the Dempsey bandwagon, Dell is trying to find ways to set itself apart, Gartner analyst John Enck said. "They need to stay competitive on the systems management front. The discussion becomes more about the things around the box, because the box is similar from one manufacturer to another," he said.

The PowerEdge 1950 is a 1U (1.75 inches high) rack server, while the 2950 is a 2U (3.5 inches high) rack server. The 2900 is a tower.

Dell also introduced the PowerEdge 1955 blade server on Wednesday. The 1950 and 2900 start at $1,749, and the 2950 costs $1,849. The rack and tower servers are available immediately, but availability and pricing for the blade server will be released in the coming weeks.

Servers based on Dempsey will not require any motherboard changes to accommodate Woodcrest, a new server processor Intel is expected to launch later this month.

CNET News.com's Dawn Kawamoto contributed to this report.