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Dell servers target lucrative markets

Dell Computer has fleshed out its server computer line with products that make it easier to gang together several machines, appealing to high-end corporate customers.

Dell Computer has fleshed out the high end of its Intel-based server line with products that make it easier to gang together several machines.

The products will help lift Intel-based servers to more demanding corporate computing markets such as database processing from relatively unsophisticated segments where they are prevalent now, such as print servers. Tying together several servers in a method called "clustering" helps companies ensure that critical computing services are available as much as possible.

Keeping servers up and running and reducing downtime is crucial as Microsoft, Intel, and major PC makers try to make their products more suitable for lucrative, high-end corporate markets, dominated by machines running the Unix operating system.

One new product, based on a deal Dell signed in May with Giganet, is a high-speed switch that lets several servers communicate with each other. The other product, based on a March deal with NuView, helps administrators manage lots of clusters. The products fit into a new plan Dell is calling its Scalable Enterprise Computing architecture.

Clustering, though well established in the realm of the Unix operating system, is still something of a new technology for Microsoft Windows. Using Microsoft Clustering Services (MSCS), called "Wolfpack," two servers may be linked so that one will take over if the other fails. Microsoft will try to expand that to work with as many as four servers in higher-end versions of Windows 2000, the sequel to Windows NT.

The first version of Windows 2000, dubbed Professional, is aimed at desktop users and is due by the end of the year. The Data Center edition, which will include the new version of MSCS clustering software, is due 120 days later, a Microsoft spokesperson said today.

Other companies are addressing clustering in different ways. IBM sells extensions to MSCS called Cornhusker that lets as many as eight servers be tied together. And Compaq is helping bring very high-end clustering software from its Unix and Tandem servers to Windows.

Dell, though it has been historically tightly aligned with Windows, is starting to expand into Unix servers. It currently sells some servers with Red Hat's version of Linux, and chief executive Michael Dell said the company is considering adding a commercial version of Unix when Intel's Merced chip arrives next year.

In the future, Dell plans to extend its Scalable Enterprise Computing architecture to include Unix systems as well, the company said.