The CR100, introduced at the Interop conference in Las Vegas, is a 1U rack server that at 16 inches deep is smaller than the typical rack server, Dell executives said. The reduced size is expected to be helpful to space-strapped small and midsize businesses, Dell's target customer.
The new product is a departure for Dell in that it's the first server built from the ground up as a software appliance. Previous products were modified PowerEdge servers. "Dell has never come out with a [special] server targeted at the software-appliance market," Rick Froehlich, VP of OEM products at Dell's Industry Solutions Group, told InformationWeek.
What's unique about the CR 100 is what Dell hasn't put into the product, Froehlich said. For example, there is no CD or DVD drive. Instead, the appliance offers a USB port for image loading or other tasks, and the box does not include high-end management software, such as Dell's own suite. "We only put in what the customer needs," he said.
In this case, the customer is appliance sellers such as McAfee, Secure Computing, and ConnectBeam. Starting at less than $700, the appliance is sold only to manufacturers and not directly to IT departments. The appliance will carry the brands of Dell customers, and will come with two to three years of support. Comparable Dell PowerEdge servers sold to OEMs and corporate customers typically have 12 to 15 months of support.
In general, Dell expects the appliances to be used mostly for e-mail, Web security, and infrastructure management, such as for acceleration, monitoring, and management, Dave Pennington, manager of Dell's Advanced Systems Group, said. Competitors are expected to be the many white-box manufacturers building software appliances today.
The new product is available with either a single Intel Core 2 Duo E4300 processor, an Intel Pentium dual-core E2160 chip, or an Intel Celeron. All three have a front-side bus of 800 MHz and caches of 2 MB, 1 MB, and 512 KB, respectively. The appliance also ships with the Intel 3200 chipset, and from 512 MB to 8 GB of DDR2 memory.
Maximum internal storage is 750 GB, which would consist of three cabled 3.5-inch 250 GB SATA drives. The computer also supports 80 GB 2.5-inch SATA drives and 160-GB 3.5-inch drives. Available operating systems include Microsoft Windows Server 2003, Red Hat Linux Enterprise, and Novell SUSE Linux.
Dell, which was displaced by Hewlett-Packard as the world's largest computer maker, is undergoing a restructuring to regain market share. Along with new servers and other business-related products, the company is also targeting the consumer market with new computers, including a mini-notebook that Dell has acknowledged it's building, but has declined to give details.