December 4, 2006 3:27 PM PST

Dell sells premium energy-efficient servers

Dell on Monday announced a premium "Energy Smart" line of servers that consume less power than regular models, becoming the latest company to jump aboard the energy efficiency bandwagon.

The company began with two rack-mountable systems: the 1.75-inch thick PowerEdge 1950 and the 3.5-inch-thick 2950. "You can expect to see the Energy Smart brand and technology extend across other Dell products," said Jay Parker, director of PowerEdge servers, in a statement.

The systems use higher-efficiency Intel processors, power supplies and fans, Dell said. They also include components to increase air flow in the chassis and have system settings to increase efficiency.

But not for free. The company said the models will cost about $100 more than mainstream Dell servers, arguing that they'll earn their keep by saving about $200 per year in energy costs. The initial price difference is steeper, though, with a regular 1950 starting at $1,749, compared with $2,449 for the bottom-of-the-line Energy Smart system.

Energy efficiency has risen to the top of the agenda for server makers, given the increasing electricity demands of processors and other computing components, combined with rising power costs. IBM and Hewlett-Packard have programs to reduce data-center power consumption, and the U.S. Congress has urged customers to buy efficient servers.

Sun Microsystems, meanwhile, touts the low power consumption of its UltraSparc T1 "Niagara"-based servers while offering "rhymes with hell" advertisements that lampoon the power consumption of Dell products. Dell's more recent servers use new Intel processors that consume dramatically less power, however.

Dell also said it is working on reducing power consumption of its business-oriented Optiplex desktops.

Most customers won't be interested in Dell's server systems initially, Parker said.

"We would expect somewhere in the 10 to 20 percent range of our customers to be interested in this product and to ultimately migrate to this," he said. "But there is a whole other set of customers who need more configurability, or (for whom) power efficiency is not a priority."

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