Dell Moves Up with New Hardware, Services


All right, Dell, now we seem to be getting somewhere.

The new enterprise line of systems and services introduced this week seems to be geared toward actual IT solutions, rather than just single products designed to fill holes in established environments. And with the focus on both efficiency and propelling customers into new cloud-based technologies, there just might be room for Dell among the IBMs and Ciscos of the enterprise world.

The lineup includes product introductions or system upgrades across a wide swath of Dell's portfolio. A new generation of PowerEdge Servers and Precision workstations will tout the Nehelem processors from Intel, supplemented by enhanced virtualization and system-management capabilities, including the LifeCycle Controller that integrates management systems into a single access point.

There's also a new EquaLogic array, the PS6000, tied to a new centralized dashboard called the SAN Headquarters that monitors the 6000 and earlier PS arrays, allowing enterprises to cluster them into storage pools that can extend into double-digit petabyte ranges.

The company also released a new M-series blade designed to lower TCO compared to other systems in its class and a Management Console powered by Symantec's Altiris software that oversees entire IT environment from a single console.

But probably the most significant advance is the extension of the company's ImageDirect program onto its server line. Formerly reserved for desktops and laptops, the service offers factory-installed images, cutting out the hassle of having to load them yourself and then dealing with configuration drift and other quirks in the bargain.

At a time when server sales are flat due to the slowing economy and the impact of virtualization, there's some question as to whether Dell was wise to throw so much effort behind server and storage systems, but there are signs that the company is starting to take advanced technologies like cloud computing more seriously as well. This profile of The Gem Group, which supplies gifts and accessories to the business community, shows how the company cut its maintenance and support budget by 10 percent using Dell's Desktop Management and Email Management services, as well as the company's Online Backup and Recovery solution.

I've been hard on Dell in the past, and the company clearly has a long way to go if it hopes to remain a factor in the hyper-competitive world of enterprise systems. But at least these are moves in the right direction -- toward a more coordinated approach that aims to provide solutions rather than mere technology. It's what Dell needs to do if it wants to be a partner instead of a simple vendor.