Dell mapped out the next phase of its data center strategy on Thursday with new hardware and software that it says will make it faster and cheaper for customers to deploy new hardware and applications.
The new products include the Active System 800, which combines Dell servers, storage and network gear in a pre-assembled rack that it says customers can fire up quickly to deploy a virtual desktop infrastructure, a private cloud or business applications.
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It also introduced Active System Manager, a template-based provisioning tool that can automate some of the repetitive steps in configuring servers, which it said will also reduce errors. Both products will be available in the U.S. in November and worldwide early next year, Dell said.
At the same time, Dell will phase out a line of similarly integrated systems that it introduced last year under the brand vStart, said Tim Mattox, Dell's vice president of strategy, in an interview. Dell says the new Active Systems offer better hardware and management capabilities than the vStart systems they'll replace.
The Active System 800 comes in toward the high end of the vStart lineup. Dell will eventually offer other Active Systems at different price points to replace the other vStart products.
It's the latest step in a broader push by Dell to move beyond selling PCs and stand-alone servers and into higher-margin gear. It's bought several companies in support of the effort, including SonicWall, AppAssure and Scalent, and most recently, Quest Software for US$2.6 billion.
It's a challenge for Dell, which moved later than rivals such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard to diversify its business. To support the converged systems push, Dell hired Marius Haas, who previously ran HP's network business, and John Swainson, the former CA chief, to boost its software efforts.
Haas announced the products and outlined Dell's strategy at an event for press and analysts in San Francisco Thursday. Customers are under pressure to deploy systems more quickly and at lower cost, and Dell can help them do that, he said.
One way Dell hopes to differentiate itself is with a technology that allows the flash memory in a rack of servers to be viewed as a single, large pool of memory. That will provide a 10-fold performance boost for some applications, according to Dell. Business intelligence seems a likely candidate.