News.com has an article discussing Dell’s data center sales wins with Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon.com, Akamai, and Baidu.
Dell racks up Microsoft as data center customer
Posted by Ina Fried
When it comes to picking a spot for a data center, Google and Microsoft often have the same sites in mind. But when it comes to how they build, the two companies take far different approaches.
Google relies largely on its own design expertise, contracting for and building its own server designs. Microsoft, meanwhile, relies on outside companies to build the hardware, though it certainly takes an active role in designing the centers themselves.
A custom Dell server known as Xanadu built for an unnamed data center customer.
Dell is one of the companies that helps power Microsoft's server farms, including the ones that power Microsoft's operating system in the cloud, Windows Azure.
Data centers have been a bright spot for Dell, which has struggled in recent years. On its own, Dell's data center business would be a top 5 server vendor, said Forrest Norrod, the Dell vice president who heads its data center effort. In its most recent earnings conference call, CEO Michael Dell called out Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon.com, Akamai, and Baidu as key customers in that arena.
What did Dell do? They listened to the customers and designed for customer’s environment and requirements.
It turned out that customers at the highest end didn't really need some of the hallmarks of Dell's servers. Built-in management code and redundancy might appeal to the average business, but to a customer that expects to burn through their servers, such features are costly and unnecessary.
Meanwhile, other features like extreme power efficiency and density were the things that companies would pay a premium to get.
And they reprioritized features.
It turns out there are a lot of things you don't need when building a server that is going to go in one of these data centers. For example, expansion ports are definitely out, as are legacy I/O ports. Memory slots need to be limited to the minimum necessary (and then kept full so they don't change the thermodynamics).
Instead of redundant fans or power supplies, Norrod said, Dell learned what customers really needed was one good one, since a system wasn't likely to be touched until it failed, at which time it would be replaced.
Dell saved energy and eliminated waste. Sounds Green to me.