IBM has announced that it is throwing a "lifeline" to Dell customers in the high-end server market.
Dell announced a few weeks ago that it did not intend to come to market with an eight-way Pentium 4 Xeon MP server that it was working on in conjunction with Intel, and now IBM is trying to make hay from that announcement. However, by concentrating on its work with Oracle on RAC, Dell's strategy is not wrong, it is just different to IBM's approach.
Under a new marketing campaign internally known as "Dell on Ice", hundreds of IBMers will be attacking the Dell customer base to try to win sales for IBM's own "Summit" xSeries 440 and xSeries 445 servers.
While it is easy to take pot shots at Dell for not having eight-way or larger machines, Dell's strategy of working closely with Oracle on Real Application Clusters (RAC) for Oracle9i is sound. IBM itself has endorsed exactly the same approach with its DB2 Integrated Clustering Environment (DB2 ICE) clustering technology, which can gang up hundreds of nodes based on two-way or four-way (or larger) servers into one giant, resilient virtual database server.
IBM has not been very big on pushing Oracle RAC, unlike Dell and Hewlett Packard, but its Global Services team will sell whatever customers want to buy, this much is certain. The fact of the matter is that some customers want to throw hardware at their problems, and they don't want to learn a new trick, at least not today. For them, a big SMP box is the best answer.
The other thing to remember is that IBM has spent beaucoup bucks on designing and manufacturing the Summit machines, and if it can give its sales force a story to tell that makes it look like it has an edge over Dell, IBM is going to tell that story. IBM has to push big boxes as much as clusters because that is what it has on the truck. This doesn't make Dell wrong so much as different from IBM.
Finally, with virtual partitioning software from VMware available for Windows and Linux platforms and soon from Microsoft for Windows platforms, even a four-way Gallatin box with lots of memory can be partitioned up into plenty of slices for server consolidation. Dell is going to be able to make some hay here, too, even if it does not have an eight-way or larger box.
Related research Datamonitor, The IBM Corporation: Firmly on top of the IT mountain (RBTC0058)
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