Dell to Ship Madison-based Servers

Dell officials on Wednesday said the company would ship two-way servers based on the upcoming Itanium 2 “Madison” 64-bit processor. The announcement marks the computermaker’s return to Itanium, after skipping the “McKinley” generation of the chip.

The new server will be called the Dell PowerEdge 3250. With a 2U form factor, maximum RAM of 16 GB and up to 292 GB of internal storage, Dell is aiming the server at the small but high-profile high-performance computing clusters (HPCC) market.

While Dell will offer the server with the 64-bit version of Windows Server 2003 Enterprise Edition, the company has pushed hardest and had the most success in HPCC on the 32-bit side with Linux. Dell will offer Red Hat Enterprise Linux on the servers.

Pricing and availability will be announced after Intel formally launches the “Madison”, its third-generation Itanium processor.

Dell was among the first server vendors to ship a server, the Dell PowerEdge 7150, running the original “Merced” Itanium processor. The company chose not to reload that server with Itanium 2 “McKinley” processors when they came out last summer.

“We did not refresh that until Madison because we thought Madison was the right inflection point,” said Darrel Ward, a product manager for Dell, during a conference call announcing the server Wednesday afternoon.

Analyst Brooks Gray with Hampton, N.H.-based Technology Business Research says Dell’s decision to come back to Itanium helps Intel fend off two rivals -- AMD, which has a 64-bit processor that currently provides a smoother transition from 32-bit to 64-bit computing; and Intel’s own powerful, 32-bit Xeon server processors.

”It’s significant in that Intel needs endorsement right now. I think Intel needs as much help as possible promoting its 64-bit processor,” Gray said.

Dell’s move also brings weight to the low-end side of the Itanium 2 “Madison” market. Most vendors rolling out Madison systems are focusing their marketing efforts on massive SMP systems, such as the 64-processor HP Superdome server and NEC’s 32-processor system.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.