Dell will feature the quad-core Xeon 5300 processor from Intel on its PowerEdge rack and blade style servers and in Precision workstations next week.

A Dell executive said these systems have a better performing configuration than a dual-core, four-socket setup.

"We actually see, with the introduction of our new quad-core systems, that this is the beginning of the end of the four-socket marketplace over the next three or four years," said Neil Hand, Dell vice president of worldwide enterprise marketing.

Dell claims quad cores in a dual-socket server configuration can deliver 63% better computing performance, and 40% better performance per watt, than dual-core processors in four sockets.

Hand also said the performance can be further enhanced in virtualisation environments.

He pointed to the fact that Dell is an OEM partner with virtualisation software vendor, VMware. Dell has been able to consolidate 1,000 software applications in its own IT department onto 100 servers using VMware, Hand said.

"If we were to redo that with quad core, instead of dual core, we’d be doing that on 60 or 70 servers instead of 100, so there would be another 30 or 40% reduction in the number of servers," he said.

Dell is joining other vendors in bringing quad-core based servers to market.

IBM features quad-core Power processors on its System p line of servers. And the Taiwanese server maker Tyan introduced new hardware systems targeted at small or home-based offices running the Xeon 5300 on 16 October.

HP is set to launch new workstations running the same Intel Xeon 5300 processor Dell is using next week.

While AMD, Intel's chief rival in the chip business is scheduled to come out with a quad-core processor in mid-2007. When it does, Dell will be ready to offer the AMD processor along with its Intel-powered models, Hand said.

"I’ll be there the day that AMD ships," he said.

A quad-core processor is built with four processors together on the same die, while a socket is the place in a computer where the processor plugs in. By putting four cores in one processor, computer performance is enhanced using only two sockets instead of four. Multi-core chips allow a computer to split up heavy workloads more easily for faster performance.