Look at the history of computers that power the data center and you’ll see a clear trend. Starting with the monstrous mainframes of yesteryear, evolving to the bulky Unix boxes of the ‘90s, then slimming down to the lean servers of today, machines have gotten smaller and smaller. And smaller.
The winner of Datamation’s Product of the Year award in the Enterprise Server category, Dell’s PowerEdge 1900, illustrates how far this trend has come. Retailing for$1,199 – less than some high-end laptops – the PE 1900 is an efficient, pared-down box, weighing in at just 110 pounds fully configured. It’s designed for a penny-pinching small business or a remote office operation.
Stori Waugh, a senior product manager in Dell Product Group, opines that “The PowerEdge 1900 was designed to reduce complexity and simplify IT operations so customers can focus on what’s really important to them – running their business.”
The PE 1900’s modest price point is indicative of another trend in server history: commodization.
In the intensely competitive server market, box makers strive aggressively to offer an efficient machine at a bare-bones cost. A price difference of even a few hundred dollars is enough to influence buyers’ decisions.
“In the server space, where companies are buying tens, hundreds, or thousands of these things, they really are in most cases looking for something that just has a certain level of characteristics, and the best price for those characteristics,” says Illuminata analyst Gordon Haff.
Dell competes effectively in this market, Haff tells Datamation. “Dell makes a nice line-up of boxes, they make it easy to order over the Web, they have good prices, so obviously a lot of people like their product.”
Reaching for the SMB Market
When Dell unveiled the PE 1900 in September 2006, its intent was clear: the company wanted a bigger share of the SMB market, and this bottom dollar – but expandable – server was part of that plan. (Indeed, introducing products like the PE 1900 has helped Dell increase its share of the SMB market in unit terms from 10% in 2000 to 30% today.)
Yet in keeping with current trends in small box computer, the PE 1900 doesn’t lack for power. For those businesses needing a souped-up version, this two-socket tower is available with Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5300 (Clovertown) processors. Compared with a version of the PE1900 powered by Intel’s Woodcrest chip, the Clovertown boosts processing performance by 63%.
Also boosting speed is the option of a 1333Mhz front side bus. And the PE 1900’s 64-bit memory addressability, when used with a 64-bit OS, enables the box to host some apps with hefty memory imprints. The box allows up to 16GB of buffered DIMM memory.
Like many of its competitors, the PE 1900 offers a plethora of options for expanding storage. The hard drive options range from a 10,000RPM 73 GB SAS drive to a 7200RPM SATA 750 GB drive. The external options are still greater, ranging from a PowerVault 200s/221S external storage system to an MD6000 External Disk Enclosure.
The word “virtualization” seems to be on the lips of every data center manager, and the PowerEdge 1900 is designed with this in mind.
The server’s Quad-Core processors are the kind of chips that can handle the demands of a virtualized set up. Dell, which partners with VMware, sells tested and supported virtualization solutions. (In fact, the company offers what it calls a “Virtualization Readiness Assessment Service.”)
The PowerEdge 1900 comes preinstalled with Windows Sever, Red Hat Enterprise or Novell SUSE Linux.