Dell has picked quad-core Opteron processors from AMD to power two new rack-mount servers, called R805 and R905. It said the servers will be offered with embedded versions of VMware ESXi and Citrix XenServer, plus eventually Microsoft's HyperV as well.

The company also announced plans to add embedded hypervisor options to several of its other servers and offer virtualisation services, including a healthcheck to help customers improve and expand an already-virtualised datacentre.

It is also working with Egenera on a broader dynamic datacentre scheme, similar to self-optimising resource allocation schemes already offered by the likes of HP, IBM and Sun.

"The R805 and R905 are specifically designed to be virtualisation engines - building for virtualisation means double the memory capacity of a standard server and more IO," said Hugh Jenkins, Dell's UK enterprise marketing director.

Priced from £1,499, the R805 is a 2U server able to take up to 128GB of memory and two of AMD's quad-core Opteron chips, code-named Barcelona. Starting at £3,989, the R905 is larger at 4U and can take four Barcelonas for a total of 16 cores, plus up to 256GB of memory.

Both include four embedded Gigabit Ethernet NICs, which can be switched into TOE (TCP offload engine) mode in the factory at no extra cost. Jenkins said that Dell doesn't think the market is ready yet for 10Gig Ethernet as standard.

"10Gig is there as an option," he explained. "We think over time, and with the advent of iSCSI, most customers will start to embrace 10Gig. Some are putting it in as a core now, but we don't see it as essential for virtualisation yet."

He added that the four-socket R905 has already taken the top spot in VMware's VMmark benchmark, supporting 60 virtual machines and outperforming its 16-core rivals.

The embedded hypervisor will be on an SD card in the new machines, on a USB stick on the existing models that will gain a virtualisation option - these include the PowerEdge 2950, R900, 1950 and 2900 - and will be installed on hard disk for the M600 and M605 blades.

Jenkins said that he expects the main demand to be for VMware, but with growing potential for XenServer among midsized companies. He added that with HyperV entering the competition later this, Dell has put a chart up on its rack server pages to allow potential buyers to compare features and work out which of the three best suits their needs.