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Dell looking to optimize servers for virtualization

Server maker looking for a new edge as software layers change the rules of server management and purchasing

Low-cost and high-profile virtualization technologies such as Xen and VMware may not have completely rewritten the book on how entry-level and mid-range servers are bought and sold, but the efficiency-minded products are seen as contributing to a gradual cooling of the market for server hardware. In response, Dell says it is beginning work on server platforms which will cater specifically to virtualization deployment.

Dell executive comments first reported by Cnet indicate that the company is planning a line of machines designed around four to eight processor cores over two sockets. The exact mapping of cores and physical chips to operating system guests varies between different virtualization products, but for low-consumption duties it is not unheard of to stack multiple virtual machines into a single core, so such configurations could host from four to ten or more dedicated server guests. The new machines will be part of Dell's PowerEdge line.

Aside from catering to the need for copious amounts of memory and disk space (as each virtual slice requires a significant amount of space for its own operations) it is unclear exactly how Dell will optimize the hardware. Most commodity x86 machines are capable of running virtualization software today. Research firm IDC forecasts that the server market will soon settle into trends where fewer, but more powerful, machines are sold-a direct result of the opportunities afforded by virtualization.

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