By day (and some nights, weekends, maintenance windows, etc.), Matt Vogt is the Sr. Systems Administrator for Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. By night (and some lunch breaks, nights, weekends), he blogs at about Virtualization, Storage and Community. He can also be found at all hours of almost every day on Twitter -  @mattvogt. He is convinced that the social community of Infrastructure IT makes Admins, Evangelists, Sales, Engineers and the industry itself better through dialog, disagreements, help and encouragement.

This past Monday, I had the opportunity to attend Dell’s San Francisco event, led by CEO Michael Dell, VPs Praveen Asanth and Forrest Norrod along with Sr. VP David Johnson, at which they unveiled several new offerings across their enterprise product line. While you can read all about the wonderful sales figures that Dell shared on other financially focused corners of the webosphere, I want to spend a few posts focusing on the event and products themselves and what stood out to me.

Part 1 - 12th Generation PowerEdge

Dell’s 12G PowerEdge servers will ship with their 2nd generation lifecycle controller which offers, along with their iDRAC 7, agentless management over the life cycle of the server. Further expanding on a feature that has been available beginning with their 11G servers back in 2009, the LifeCycle controller allows computers to be managed and monitored without taking precious CPU cycles away from the OS. When some installations require an extremely optimized operating environment, management agents, while essential, are essentially performance thieves.

Taking a look at the physical hardware itself, you will see that each server has a QR code printed on it, and when scanned, will take you directly to that specific server’s support page for quick access to warranty information, driver downloads and other critical information. My hope is that this info is migrated from the top of the server, where you’d have to pull the server out of the rack about 6 inches, to the already included ‘luggage’ tag that slides out on its own.

The PE R620, the virtualization workhorse, now has the ability to have up to 10 hard drives (up from 6). Another capability which will be in all R6 series and above servers is the option of front loaded, hot swappable, PCIe Flash Cache hard drives for an added tier of storage to go along with the traditional spinning disks. Dell is saying that it can hold up to 300% more Virtual Machines than the 11G servers. This is primarily due to CPU (upcoming Sandy Bridge), memory, network (10GbE) and hard drive advancements. Speaking of HDD configs, the brand new to the series R720XD comes with a max capacity of not only 24 2.5in drives in the front, but 2 extra 2.5in drives in the rear to separate out OS/App more easily.  One of the cooler configs is the field replaceable LOM (LAN on Motherboard). If you wanted to stick a generic 1Gb Broadcom in there today, but really wanted to upgrade to Intel or a Broadcom with iSCSI offload or all the way up to 10Gb in the future, no problem! Just swap that puppy out. Whereas with previous versions, you were either stuck until you bought a new unit, or went through the terrible pain of swapping out the entire motherboard.

The coolest new hardware was easily the industry’s first quarter height blade, the M420. Forrest Norrod (VP and GM of Server Platforms) seemingly pulled this thing out of nowhere from behind the podium, spoke about it for around 2 minutes and put it back.

I was a little stunned, especially that they didn’t spend more time touting this thing. It’s not going to be counted as microserver as Intel has defined it (single socket, 4 memory slots, etc.), that would be a disservice. This is a 2-socket, full networking fabric and management blade that will fit in to the current M1000e blade chassis. Which means you could cram 32 of these into a single chassis. Imagine, 32 dual socket, 8 core Sandy Bridge (educated guessing on the CPU architecture offer, but the model number doesn’t end in a 5, so I think AMD is out) blades in a 10U enclosure? S-E-X-Y!

A release date wasn’t officially set as Dell, along with HP, IBM and company, are most likely anxiously awaiting Intel to officially announce the availability of their Sandy Bridge CPU.

With at least one server coming up for refresh this year, I look forward to getting these in house to drool over, I mean, put into production.