seems all the technological developments for servers
center around cost savings and simplified server management.
Here's a round up of current server trends. by Brian
year 2002 was hard on server vendors. The economic malaise
forced enterprises to cut spending on IT infrastructure.
This thinned server margins, prompting vendors to lend
a more careful ear to enterprise requirements. Managers
now talk only about saving costs and making maximum
utilization of the existing resources. Those
going in for new servers prefer industry standard platforms
and server lines with long roadmapsafter all long-term
vendor commitment is important. The various considerations
that CIOs/CTOs have (see previous story) has set off
a number of trends, as discussed below.
Over the years enterprises deployed several servers
for discreet applications at disparate locations. Along
with that came the investment in software applications
and personnel to manage the servers. Today, the cost
of managing these servers is eating into operational
expenses. One way to control costs here is server consolidationaggregation/centralization
of server applications on single servers with multiprocessing
"Consolidation is gaining momentum not only in
large enterprises but also the SMBs, though at different
levels," says Vinod Nair, Research Analyst, PCs,
Servers & Workstations, Gartner India. "The
need for additional capacity is now being contested
with the argument for consolidation and centralization,
leading to better resource management and lower downtimes.
However, lack of education on the pros and cons of consolidation
is severely felt leading to the death of this initiative,
in many cases. This is big time opportunity for vendors,
especially to target large corporate accounts."
Another Gartner analyst, John Phelps, says there are
three forms of server consolidation: Logical, Physical
and Rational. He explains that logical consolidation
means deploying a set of common best practices and management
to all of a company's servers, rather than relocating
or eliminating servers. Physical consolidation means
the co-location of multiple platforms at fewer locations.
This means centralizing servers in fewer physical locations,
by looking for overlapping areas in hardware and software
consolidation means applying the latest techniques for
server consolidation, like clustering with workload
management and server partitioning.
Phil Dawson, Program Director (International), Server
Infrastructure Strategies, Meta Group, says enterprises
should consider co-location (moving the servers to the
same location). "We think there is a trend in consolidation.
Enterprises also need to consider some sort of storage
consolidation and services. Then they have to rationalize
and think about reducing the complexity and cost of
Dawson says one should consider workloads when planning
consolidation. "For instance, if a 4-way Intel
Xeon server offers 70,000 tpmC, one should calculate
the number of workloads it can handle."
TCO and Management
Since consolidation centralizes servers and applications,
it simplifies server management and reduces Total Cost
of Ownership (TCO). Fewer licenses will be required
for expensive server software, and fewer personnel are
required to manage the servers.
Server vendors are trying to address the TCO factor
through value addstools and technologies that
make servers easier and less expensive to manage. IBM
has Project eLiza, an autonomic computing initiative
that aims to make servers self-healing. HP (through
its acquisition of Compaq) has an initiative called
Adaptive Infrastructurethe ability of the system
to respond to changing workloads. Adaptive Infrastructure
has four tenets: virtual presence, automated system
provisioning, intelligent fault resilience, and dynamic
resource scaling. To address this, HP offers a suite
of software tools called HP Proliant Essentials, with
its Proliant range of servers.
Meta Group analyst Phil Dawson says the management of
the servers is key for customers when considering a
move to Intel/Linux or Intel/Windows 2000. "Many
high-end platforms are sold on the strength of their
single points of management."
There's no doubt that Linux is gaining ground in the
enterprise computing space. While enterprises now use
it for "edge of the network" applications
(like firewalls, Web servers, messaging servers), the
question is: Is Linux ready for mission critical business
applications? Also, Linux servers are being perceived
as a growing threat to the RISC/Unix servers.
IDC expects Linux to gain ground on Unix, especially
in competition with RISC/Unix based systems. And Gartner
predicts that worldwide, Linux-based server shipments
will double in 2003. Gartner says that Linux will be
taken more seriously in the enterprise market, especially
in the telecommunications and Web application server
Meta Group Analyst Phil Dawson says, "We see a
big move to Linux, especially for application servers
and Web servers, but not as much as the database platform.
As a result we see that Linux is predominantly dominant
on Intel. The volume of application development is on
Intel. The predominance of Linux on Intel is eating
into Unix on RISC."
If Linux on Intel is eating into Unix on RISC, are the
days of the latter numbered? Are all those traditional
Unix/RISC deployments going to migrate to Linux/Intel
anytime soon? Mathew Boon, Principal Analyst, Hardware
Platforms, Gartner says RISC will continue to be around
"As we see Intel pushing up to the Unix market
with their Xeon MP and 64-bit Itanium systems, one questions
the survivability of the RISC/Unix market. We feel it
will survive through 2010 or beyond," says Boon.
Boon made a presentation at the Nasscom-Gartner conference
in Mumbai last year. He explained that Unix/RISC systems
will continue to evolve and will be used for large back-end
databases. These systems will offer mainframe-like capabilities.
"Intel systems will not take over RISC and RISC
will not take over the mainframe. These will continue
to have their own spheres of expertise," said Boon.
Meta Group analyst Phil Dawson has a similar opinion.
"The volume RISC servers are going to move into
a back-end database market. People will choose Intel
for the volume marketthe app server, the Web server.
For database servers, they are going to decide if eight
processors are enough. 8-way (Intel) servers are doing
far more what a 24-way or 32-way RISC server was doing
three years ago."
Dawson says performance is no longer an issue. Those
customers who needed more than 8-way or 16-way systems
would straightaway consider Unix as the back-end.
New Unix servers
The fact that leading server vendors (like IBM, Sun,
HP, and Fujitsu) continue to invest in RISC/Unix may
be taken as a sign of "extended life" for
this platform. A new generation of high-end Unix servers,
with high-availability and high-reliability mainframe-like
features has emerged. These servers are ideal for consolidating
smaller workloads and to host large applications.
The current Sun Fire 12K and 15K high-end servers can
scale to 72 or 106 processors and have interconnect
technology from the erstwhile supercomputer maker Cray.
IBM's p690 Unix servers (popularly called Regatta) have
inherent mainframe features with advanced functions
such as partitioning, resource management and clustering.
HP's Superdome server has hardware and software partitioning
along with resource and workload management software.
Multi-processor Intel servers
Intel Itanium servers are growing in strength. From
the 4-way Xeon servers and dual Itanium systems, Intel
and its partners are going full steam ahead to deliver
8-way, 16-way and 32-way systems. Intel has technical
partnerships with IBM, HP, NEC, Bull, Hitachi, Fujitsu
and Unisyswho have either pledged chipset support,
devised their own architectures for multiprocessor systems,
or co-working on 64-bit compiler technology. NEC and
Fujitsu have already developed 32-way Itanium servers.
Intel knows that multi-processor servers are the key
to gaining market share in the high-end server space.
Clustering vs. Big iron
Intel is moving towards 'Big Iron' with its multi-processor
servers, but some argue that the market for such servers
is shrinking. Rather than pay $1 million a box, most
enterprise requirements would be fulfilled with a set
of low-cost servers tied together in a cluster, with
workload management software. While
Dell backs clustering and does not see much market for
big iron, HP is strategically backing both.
HP's Talukdar says most of the commercial applications
are written such that they run in one large shared memory.
"Yet at the same time, for strategic computing
there is a lot of scope for parallel code, to enable
the program to run on a cluster of smaller and less
expensive computers. Today there are commercial applications
like Oracle 9i Rack that can 'scale out' you can
run the application on five parallel servers (in a cluster).
So we see developments taking place on both fronts and
hence support both big iron and clustering."
These are ideal for environments where space and electrical
power are limited, and powerful processors are not an
absolute necessity. Those thinking about server consolidation
might want to consider blades, especially since these
are easier to manage. All
server vendors either offer blade servers or are planning
to do this year.
Blade servers are commonly used in data centers, but
are yet to make a big splash in Indian enterprises.
However, enterprises with fast growing businesses are
likely to go in for blades sooner or later.
There are two main factors hampering widespread use
of blades. Enterprises find these too costly, and secondly,
these are too proprietary in their design and architecture.
As businesses increasingly transact over the Internet,
they are moving their applications from the traditional
client-server environment to Web-based architecture.
"Previously when applications were written, programmers
had an idea how many users would use it within the organization.
But when you open up your applications to the Web, you
are unsure about the number of users. So you have to
design your applications so that they can quickly scale,
depending on the traffic coming in. So this re-architecting
of applications from client server to Web-based places
much more demand on the back-end servers," says
Pallab Talukdar, Director, Business Critical Servers,
K.P. Unnikrishnan, Country Head-Marketing, Sun Microsystems
India agrees. He says applications are now architected
around Web and Java abstraction and not on client-server
architectures. "This new Web-based thin front-end
with a highly scalable back-end is what customers are
looking forthey are not interested in operating
system level details and deployments."
With server hardware and software vendors vying for
a larger share in the enterprise space, one wonders
which platforms will be dominant and which will start
to fizzle out. Going by what the analyst and vendors
say, it seems discreet platforms will co-exist in a
Meta Group analyst Phil Dawson says, "People are
going to support Windows and Linux Web application servers
in mixed heterogeneous environments, with legacy Unix
or legacy mainframe database platforms. The future of
Unix is in the data center. When it comes to a choice
of high-end databases, it's DB2 on mainframes, Unix/Oracle
and SQL server on Windows 2000. There are exceptions
to this rule, but that's where the mass market is."
HP's Pallab Talukdar says, in future there will be three
levels of operating systems in datacenters: Linux, Windows
and Unix. "Enterprises will use Unix for high-end
database servers. Many front-end applications, perhaps
some back-end application will run on Windows. And Linux
will be used at the edge of the network for tasks like
networking, load balancing, security servers, caching
Some server vendors are playing it safe and are offering
support for different server operating systems. HP for
instance offers customers a choice of HP-UX, Linux or
Windows. Some of its servers can be partitioned, and
each partition can run a different operating system.
trends and predictions
Server Consolidation is gaining momentum not
only in large enterprises but also the SMBs.
Server vendors are trying to address the TCO
factor through value addstools and technologies
that make servers easier and less expensive
Linux servers gaining ground in the enterprise.
Gartner predicts that worldwide, Linux-based
server shipments will double in 2003.
Unix/RISC systems will continue to evolve and
will be used for large back-end databases. These
systems will offer mainframe-like capabilities.
A new generation of high-end Unix servers, with
high-availability and high-reliability mainframe-like
features has emerged. These servers are ideal
for consolidating smaller workloads and to host
Intel Itanium servers are growing in strength.
From the 4-way Xeon servers and dual Itanium
servers, Intel and its partners are going full
steam ahead to deliver 8-way, 16-way and 32-way
Server clustering is emerging as a more affordable
solution, but more clustering applications are
Blade servers are commonly used in data centers,
but are yet to make a big splash in Indian enterprises.
However, enterprises with fast growing businesses
are likely to go in for blades sooner or later.
Server applications are moving from the traditional
client-server environment to Web-based architecture.
Different server platforms will co-exist in
trends for India
year was tough for vendors in the wake of the
slowdown, forcing tight end-user spending budgets.
Customers were conservative in their IT hardware
purchases. This resulted in heavy discounting
by vendors to win crucial accounts. As a result
average-selling prices plummeted to realistic
levels, sometimes even below that, benefiting
customers in these tough times.
End-user organizations are continuously focusing
on cost reduction and are also aiming to derive
more business value from IT. While some organizations
delayed their purchases due to budget constraints,
another trend observed was the tendency to migrate
to higher end systems from existing volume servers.
In their bid to reduce total cost of ownership,
customers have preferred value propositions with
the long-term perspective in mind. On the whole,
customers are cautiously evaluating their hardware
spending to maximize returns on investment.
Consolidation is gaining momentum not only in
large enterprises but also the SMBs, though at
different levels. The need for additional capacity
is now being contested with the argument for consolidation
and centralization, leading to better resource
management and lower downtimes. However, lack
of education on the pros and cons of consolidation
is severely felt leading to the death of this
initiative, in many cases. This is big time opportunity
for vendors, especially to target large corporate
Linux is finding increasing acceptance among the
user community as more applications are being
devised on this platform. With an increasing number
of software vendors parking their applications
on Linux, end users can expect improving service
and support levels. Some state level governments
have also shown the eagerness to adopt this low
cost option to achieve their computerization objective.
In sum, this will mark an increase in the number
of Linux based server shipment. However, it is
still too nascent to displace the high-end Unix
Telecom and finance still remain the demand drivers
in the coming year.
Vinod Nair, Research Analyst, PC's, Servers &
Workstations, Gartner India
Pereira can be reached at email@example.com