Dell has unveiled its first blade servers promising that the new technology will provide a cheaper alternative to existing server and server rack offerings.
But the new machines will not start shipping until the third quarter of this year, according to the company.
Dell's first blade server, the PowerEdge1655MC, accommodates up to six servers, each with two Intel Pentium III processors, in a single enclosure.
The company claims that the servers reduce running costs by sharing power and cooling demands. Server blades reduce rack space requirements by as much as 50 per cent and cabling by more than 80 per cent, according to Dell.
"This is the first release as part of our modular computing strategy," said Randy Groves, vice president and co-general manager at Dell's enterprise systems group, at the New York launch of the new systems.
But analysts expressed surprise that the product will not ship till the third quarter, saying that it leaves the field open for rivals such as Hewlett Packard, Compaq and RLX which already have blade servers available.
"There is some demand for blade servers and Dell is giving its competitors a nine-month start," said Thomas Manter, research director at the Aberdeen Group.
While the market for blade servers is small at present, the emerging technology is expected to make up a growing share of the server market over the next few years.
Dell expects blade servers to represent around one per cent of the server market this year, but said that the figure could grow to 40 to 50 per cent within five years.
The new machine has yet to enter beta testing, but the company expects the technology to host mostly web servers and small infrastructure applications. It will extend its blade server line in the future to include Intel's Xeon processor.
Dell also set out plans for next-generation 'brick' servers, which will combine the flexibility of blades with the power of traditional enterprise servers.
The new modular systems are designed for large-scale enterprise applications and aim to provide enterprise customers with exact levels of I/O, processing and storage for their particular environment.
Dell also boosted the top end of its server line with the new PowerEdge 6600 and 6650 servers using Xeon multi-processors.
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