Dell readies slimmer blades

The new server system will allow one and a half blade servers to fit into the same space that a 1U rack-mounted server takes up now.

Dell's new strategy in blades is one equals one and a half.

The Round Rock, Texas-based computer maker will unveil a new blade server system in the fourth quarter that will allow customers to put one and a half blade servers into the same space that a 1U rack-mounted server takes up now, but include the vast majority of features such as redundant power supplies and fast processors that are found on 1U (1.75 inches thick) boxes, said Paul Gottsegen, vice president of worldwide enterprise marketing at Dell.

The new blades are designed largely to better balance the functionality, density and price premium on blades, he said. Blade servers are thin systems that slide into a chassis like books into a bookshelf; the chassis has shared components such as power supplies and external network connections.

Some of the early, extremely dense blades, which allowed PC makers to put hundreds of servers into a space that traditionally could accommodate about 80, did not come with redundant drives and depended on notebook processors.

"Customers have said 'Don't come and talk to me until they have the same functionality as your rack mounted blades,'" he said.

At the other end of the spectrum, beefier blades with dual Xeon processors end up not saving much space. Blade systems also cost around 30 percent to 40 percent more than standard rack-mounted servers, he said.

The new blade system will feature Intel Xeon processors, formerly code-named Nocona that can handle 32-bit and 64-bit software, speedy DDR 2 memory, and capability for redundant drives and power supplies. The redundant components will likely not be incorporated onto the individual blades but in the blade chassis or an independent storage unit.

The blade system will ideally cost about 25 percent less than an equal number of 1U systems when the blade chassis is completely populated. If only half the chassis is full, it will cost about the same as the equivalent number of rack mounted 1Us.

Dell's blade chassis--the large rack that houses the blade servers and the input/output connections--will also be able to accommodate networking blades and other non-server products. Customers likely won't be able to slide blades from Hewlett-Packard or IBM into the rack, he said, but there is substantial interest in the customer base to be able to put third-party blades into a rack. In other words, Dell's rack will be standardized, but only to a certain degree.

Gottsegen would not say whether Dell's blade chassis was based on the design being propounded by IBM and Intel.