Dell built its business and, until recently, its reputation by keeping things simple.
The strategy worked for years with its direct-to-consumer PC model, and now it wants to bring that same cut-and-dried approach to the much more complex and comparatively mysterious world of server virtualization.
Dell (Quote), along with dozens of hardware, software and virtualization services vendors, will be front and center next week at the VMworld Conference in San Francisco, hoping to stake its claim to what's suddenly become all the rage in datacenters from Fort Lauderdale to Bangalore.
Virtualization, which lets IT managers cram multiple computing environments onto one computer so that one physical server can perform the function of two or more machines, saves time, space, energy and money.
But getting an organization's datacenter to the point where it can start realizing all that's promised by virtualization isn't as easy as it could or should be, according to Glenn Keels, a senior project manager in Dell's PowerEdge server division.
"The industry, including Dell to a certain degree, is making consolidation and virtualization too complex," Keels said in an interview with internetnews.com. "There are some myths and misconceptions out there that are confusing customers. We've had customers coming to us asking if it's true that you need blades to virtualize."
Keels said Dell doesn't think it's in customers' best interests to be automatically steered to blade servers as part of their consolidation and virtualization efforts even though they do take up considerably less physical space and consume less energy in the datacenter.
"We don't want to drive virtualization into proprietary systems," he said. "The customers receive the best price and performance by focusing on two- and four-socket systems. Let's not just blade everything. By whole-hearted adopting that, you can actually increase complexity. Blades should be an optionand we love bladesbut not a mandate."
Charles King, principal research analyst at the Hayward, Calif.-based research firm Pund-IT, said he generally agreed with Dell's position that blades aren't always the best or only option for enterprise customers looking to reduce their datacenter footprint.
"It's a fair point," he said. "An x86-based server running Wintel or Linux on AMD or Windows on AMD is fully capable of supporting virtualization capabilities. You can still get remarkably strong performance on rack servers. You just don't create the highly condensed physical environment that you can get with blades."