The Dell PowerEdge FX2 is a 2U rackmount blade chassis with a common infrastructure allowing servers and storage to share power, cooling, network switching, and chassis management. When it was announced last fall, there were two options: the FC630 two-socket, half-width Xeon blade, and the FM120x4, an Intel Atom–based microserver option. Dell quietly started shipping two additional modules this week. The FC430 is a two-socket, quarter-width Xeon blade, allowing up to eight servers in the FX2, for a total of 224 cores. The FD332 is a direct-attached disk module that contains up to two RAID controllers and sixteen 2.5-inch drives, assignable to the compute nodes inside the FX2.
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Right now is a particularly interesting time in the world of IT. Historically, IT has swung back & forth between centralization and decentralization, closed and open, tightly controlled and loosely controlled. Lately, though, a third option has cropped up: centralized control with decentralized workloads. In my opinion it’s a function of speed, implemented through bandwidth and processing capacity. We now have enough bandwidth between our devices to start treating the device in the next rack column like a slightly-less-local version of ourselves. We also have enough bandwidth that we’ve outstripped our need for separate storage and data networks, and can converge them into a single wire, running a single set of protocols (most notably TCP and IP). On the processing side, each node is basically a datacenter unto itself. 16, 32, 64 cores per server, terabytes of RAM. The advent of SSD and PCIe flash rounds out the package, lessening the need for large monolithic collections of spindles (aka “traditional storage arrays”). The problem then becomes one of control. How do we take advantage of the performance and cost that local processing brings, but maintain all the control, redundancy, and management benefits we had with a monolithic solution, while keeping the complexity under control? And while we usually talk about doing this at great scale, can we do this on a small scale, too?
Days after announcing its converged infrastructure platform, the Active System 800, Dell is already dropping hints about its future development path, confirming its intention to use the tech it acquired with RNA Networks to deliver new storage options.
Speaking at the Dell Storage Forum in Sydney last week, Ben Roscoe (Dell, General Manager – PowerVault Data Management) said the company is looking to use the technology acquired with RNA Networks to provide “integration points closer to the server”. This builds directly from the presentation that Don Ferguson (Dell CTO Dell Software Group) and Jai Menon (Dell CTO Enterprise Solutions Group) gave at the Dell Enterprise Strategy Update in San Francisco last week where Dell introduced the Active System 800. Ferguson and Menon shared their vision on how pooling server-side flash across multiple Active System nodes would speed performance of database and web apps.
Dell was in San Francisco last week to host its Enterprise Strategy Update, staking its claim to the x86 top spot with the announcement of its big converged infrastructure platform, the Active System 800.
Three years ago, Dell was just another PC/server maker fighting for market share in a commodity market. The ultra-lean manufacturing processes that had previously allowed it a significant price advantage over its competitors had been eroded as other manufacturers emulated Dell’s approach, leaving it with little to differentiate it from its competitors other than memories of past advertising campaigns. While its reputation for poor support and burning batteries was behind it, my personal perception of Dell, strongly colored by the large number of Dell laptops that expired at my hands, was not good.
However, in the last two years my view of Dell has been slowly changing. A new focus on data center technologies, a string of successful acquisitions and some fresh blood in key leadership positions has revitalized the company, forcing me to reassess Dell’s position in the enterprise technology ecosystem. Suffice to say, this is not the Dell I used to know.