Dell Serves Up Virtualization-Ready Windows Server 2012 Line
Dell this week unfurled its virtualization-ready line of Windows Server 2012 products. The company announced its new PowerEdge 12th generation servers back in March.
Some of the PowerEdge servers optimized to support virtualization using Windows Server 2012 include the M420 Blade Server, with up to 32 blades in a 10U rack, and the C6220 Rack Server, with four two-socket server nodes in a 2U chassis. Dell also has a line of servers preconfigured and optimized for virtualization, called vStart.
On top of that, Dell is working to address issues concerning virtualization, private clouds and management through its own embedded and software solutions offered to customers, even in a time of budget constraints.
"Our mutual customers -- Microsoft and Dell mutual customers, the IT leaders -- are faced with some pretty difficult challenges," said Brian Payne, executive director of PowerEdge servers at Dell, in a phone interview. "The businesses need them to respond more quickly and efficiently than they are today. Meanwhile, they may have physical constraints at the datacenter level…or they are being challenged with macroeconomic things that are forcing budget cuts, but either way they are faced with a rising demand -- and less to do it with."
Despite IDC's recent finding that the global server market has shrunk 4.8 percent year over year, Dell actually showed gains during that period. Its revenue from servers showed a 5.9 percent increase in the second quarter of this year, according to IDC.
Dell Helps Out Microsoft
Prior to the release-to-manufacturing launch of Windows Server 2012 last month, Dell specifically worked with Microsoft to improve storage capabilities. Specifically, Dell's engineers helped with the offloaded data transfer (ODX) technology that's used in Windows Server 2012.
"We have worked with them [Microsoft] on what is called 'ODX,' the offloaded data transfer capability, where you take a lot of the processing capability that typically was done on the host side of the house and push that off onto the storage side, thereby giving more processing capability -- essentially running in a lower power consumption-type of environment by putting that out on our storage devices," said Kevin Noreen, director of Dell PowerEdge server systems management and operating systems. "And at the launch we will have support for EqualLogic and Compellent storage arrays for being able to support that technology."
Dell also provided code to Microsoft to improve NIC teaming, which is a way of improving throughput in Windows Server 2012 by pooling resources.
"NIC teaming traditionally was done in the operating system, thereby taking up CPU processing power," Noreen said. "And by pushing that down into the hardware, it makes the systems much more efficient while running Windows Server 2012."
Management, VDI and the Cloud
On the management side, Dell offers its Integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) 7 with Lifecycle Controller, first introduced with Dell's PowerEdge 11th generation servers. Those products integrate with Microsoft's System Center 2012, facilitating bare-metal deployments and network monitoring without using an agent. iDRAC 7 is software that allows remote management of the server, while the Lifecycle Controller is an embedded product that allows the BIOS and firmware to be updated via System Center Configuration Manager.
"[For] some of the things for supporting Windows Server 2012, you will need System Center 2012 Service Pack 1," Noreen explained regarding the Lifecycle Controller. "So, as Microsoft introduces that [SP1] later this year, we will introduce our Lifecycle Controller integration into that."
The Lifecycle Controller allows management of Dell Servers regardless of the underlying operating system, so the server doesn't have to be running Windows. It allows Dell servers to be managed using System Center even if organizations are running VMware ESXi or even Solaris, Noreen explained.
Dell offers options for using Windows Server 2012 for virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) and Remote Desktop Services deployments. The Dell DVS Reference Architecture (PDF) for Windows Server 2012 is a bundle of products for desktop virtualization. It includes "PowerEdge R720 servers, EqualLogic PS4100E storage arrays, Force10 S55 and Wyse end point devices," according to Dell's literature. Dell announced its plans to buy Wyse, a leading provider of thin clients and zero clients for VDI, back in April. Other Dell VDI options are listed here.
Dell also sells datacenters to companies via preconfigured modules through its Dell Modular Data Center offerings. The company is also a service provider to organizations. For instance, it offers Dell Boomi, which is an application integration service that can be used to connect cloud and customer premises data. Dell announced its acquisition of Boomi in November of 2010 and has since updated the service. Dell is also a cloud-based infrastructure-as-a-service provider, having launched its Dell Cloud last year.
Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for the 1105 Enterprise Computing Group.