Dell has announced the PowerEdge 1855 Blade Server with a host of the latest technologies.

Ten dual Xeon blades fit into a 7U rack-mounted chassis. Each blade uses the latest Intel Nocona processor technology and can have up to 16GB of DDR2 memory and up to two hot-swap SCSI disks. They also have two Gigabit Ethernet ports. The chassis can have two Fibre Channel ports for SAN connectivity. Components such as power supplies and fans are hot-swappable.

According to IDC, blade server sales currently make up just two percent of European server sales. IBM leads the blade server market with HP second and FSC third. Sun also plays in the market. A compound annual growth rate of 106 percent is forecast by IDC for the 2002-2008 period. It thinks blade servers will be used mostly for "edge" computing - file and print, web-serving, business intelligence and collaborative computing.

The background idea is that large and medium enterprises are increasingly moving to standardised server hardware and software where processors, either virtual or real, are added as the IT demand increases. Blade servers should provide more server power in less space and so save cost.

Neil Hands, Dell's VP of server marketing, said: "Our competitors' blades are more expensive than their rack-based servers. Ours are not." Of course, customers have to buy the chassis before they buy blades. IDC VP Martin Hingley explained the economics: "If you have four or five blades per chassis then you start saving cost."

With Dell's new blade, customers can get 62 percent better server density than with its 1U server product and over 40 percent more processing power in a standard rack. The amount of network, power and keyboard/video/monitor (KVM) cabling drops by up to 70 percent, again compared to Dell's 1U server products in a rack.

Dell has improved its management products to manage PowerEdge blade farms. It is also working with Microsoft and third parties such as Altiris and VMWare to simplify blade deployment, monitoring and management, both local and remote.

Chassis pricing starts at £1,641 (ex-VAT and delivery). Individual blades servers start at £908. A five-bladed chassis starts at £6,380 and a fully-populated chassis costs £10,918.