are so many options available when it comes to choosing
commercial enterprise servers. Each vendor has a different
way of classifying its servers. Here's a look at how
vendors are positioning their power boxes at enterprises.
by Brian Pereira
you went out to buy a car from the Indian market thirty
years ago, your choices were limited to an Ambassador,
a Fiat or a Standard Herald. Maruti came much later.
Now you have a choice of Indian, American, Japanese,
Korean, or European cars. These are available in varying
sizes with different designs and seating capacities.
And they're available in Petrol or Diesel versionsin
different price ranges. This wide choice has made purchasing
cars a difficult task for consumers. Buyers will select
a car based on the attributes they require, for the
best price of course. And it's exactly the same with
serversin a crowded server market, application
and business requirement comes first.
As with automobiles, there is no single classification
for servers; vendors classify their server portfolios
in various ways. Servers may be classified by number
of processors; by application (high-availability, back-end
servers, front-end servers, network edge servers); by
form factor (pedestal, rack, blade); by platform (RISC/Unix
flavors, Itanium / Linux, Itanium / Windows), or by
segment (entry-level, midrange, high-end).
Generally 1- 4 processor systems are entry-level; 8
- 16 way systems are midrange; servers with 16 CPUs
and above are considered high-end. The 32-CPU (or more)
systems fall in the mainframe or supercomputer class.
Server vendors cater to various business requirements
through various product lines. Here's a summary of the
product lines from leading server manufacturers, and
also their strategies to gain/maintain leadership.
Right from the days of mainframes, IBM has been constantly
developing server technology. It now offers a full line
of data transaction, Web application and appliance servers
that follow open industry standards. IBM has been actively
pursuing Linux servers in recent years. In October 2000
it reclassified its portfolio of servers to the eServer
The eServer portfolio begins with the xSeries (erstwhile
Netfinity servers)a range of entry-level, Intel-based
servers. Then comes iSeries (formerly AS/400e)the
integrated midrange business servers. The p-Series (formerly
RS6000) are RISC/Unix servers.
At the high-end comes the zSeries and S390 mainframe
The IBM eServer product portfolio could also be classified
as Blade servers (xSeries Servers - Blade Centre &
Blade Centre HS20), Intel Processor based servers (xSeries
ServersRack optimized, Universal), Unix Servers
(pSeries ServersEntry , Mid-range & High-end),
Midrange Servers (iSeries ServersSmall business
& workgroups, Medium Businesses & Large Businesses),
Mainframe Servers (zSeries Servers 800, 900, S/390 G5/G6
& S/390 Multiprise 3000) and Cluster Servers (Cluster
1350 & Cluster 1600).
Apart from its support and services offerings, the company
also offers finance and leasing facilities to its customers
through IBM Global Financing.
Strategy: M. Ganesh, Country Manager, Enterprise
Systems Group, IBM India says the company's strategy
is to provide industry leading performance servers,
based on mainframe-inspired technologies and self-managing
technology, shared across the server range. "These
new technologies will offer unparallel e-business and
server consolidation capabilities to enable customers
to build less complex, but flexible and scalable server
infrastructure to keep them ahead of the competition
and significantly reduce total cost of ownership."
IBM's e-business on demand sets the agenda for its future
server business. "We will work with our customers
to offer server deployment choiceLinux on all
server platforms, open protocols, grid computing, and
technologies that allow customers to integrate their
existing e-business infrastructures with our solutions.
And if we properly support open protocols and give customers
deployment choice, they will choose our solutions. They
don't want to be trapped with only one option."
Ganesh adds that IBM will be working closely with its
business partners and ISVs (Independent Software Vendors)
to jointly develop solutions that cater to all industries
and across all segments.
Sun Microsystems is the last bastion of the proprietary
RISC/Unix servers. Even as other RISC server vendors
(like IBM and HP) walk the road to open standards, Sun
stubbornly holds on to RISC. Sun remains vertical, with
its own server hardware (UltraSparc processor), operating
system (Solaris) and Solaris applications.
At the entry-level Sun has its 1 - 4 processor systems
that include SunFire V100, V120, 280R and V480.
SunFire V880, 3800, 4800 & 6800 are classified as
mid-range systems in terms of features and price, and
the range extends from 8 to 24 processors. Sun calls
this range Mid-Frame since this range presents mainframe
class RAS features at midrange prices.
Sun's high-end systems are mainframe class in terms
of scalability and RAS; these are essentially used for
consolidation applications. This range consists of SunFire
12000 and SunFire 15000 with a CPU scalability of up
to 106 CPUs in SMP architecture.
Sun servers are also classified on the basis of packaging
and applications. For example, under the SunFire Servers
there are Rack Servers. The Sun Netra Servers are telco-grade
NEBS compliant servers. Then there are Server appliances
such as the Sun Cobalt Server.
Strategy: Anil Valluri, director-Systems Engineering,
Sun Microsystems India, says the challenge for Sun is
not to increase market share, but to grow the market
itself by exploring new segments and applications, and
creating demand. "Sun is also very focused in growing
the Indian ISV community through the Sun Developer Network
to make most of the applications available on Sparc/Solaris
Unlike other vendors HP refrains from classifying its
servers as entry-level, midrange and high-end. Instead,
HP classifies its server products in terms of performance
and capacity. The company has a history of acquiring
companies that manufactured servers; notable acquisitions
include Tandem and Compaq Computer (Compaq acquired
Digital Equipment Corp.)
Today HP offers four lines of servers. In addition to
its proprietary platform (PA-RISC with HP-UX operating
system), it has the Proliant range (acquired from Compaq),
the Alpha servers (from Digital), and the Non Stop Himalaya
range (from Tandem). In addition, HP also offers Itanium-based
servers and Telco or carrier-grade servers.
Proliant servers: The Proliant range are
industry standard servers (with Intel Xeon, Pentium
III and Pentium 4 processors). These systems are optimized
for Windows, NetWare and Linux environments. The Proliant
line has three subfamilies: Proliant ML (pedestal),
Proliant DL (density/rack optimized), and Proliant BL
Proliant ML subfamily includes the ML 300 series (2-way),
ML 500 series (4-way) and ML 700 series (8-way).
Proliant DL subfamily includes the DL 300 series (2-way),
DL 580 (4-way) and DL 780 (8-way).
Proliant BL subfamily comprises the e-Class (ProLiant
BL10e) and the p-Class (ProLiant BL20p). These are
blade servers that are used in environments where
floor space is a major constraint and high computing
power is not a necessity.
In addition, the Proliant family includes the tc series
aimed at the price sensitive market that does not require
the management and frills associated with the typical
Proliant server. The tc 2100 series is positioned at
the SMB market.
PA-RISC servers: These servers go back
to the days of proprietary RISC/Unix servers. Even though
HP is moving towards standard industry systems (Itanium
servers), it continues to develop its PA-RISC processor
and the HP-UX operating system.
The high-end HP Superdome server is available in different
configurations ranging from 1 - 64 CPUs. These systems
(and others in the PA-RISC line) use PA-8700 series
Next comes the HP-UX midrange and entry-level servers.
These include the rp2400 series (1-2 CPUs), rp5400 series
(1-4 CPUs), rp7400 series (1-8 CPUs), and rp 8400 series
Itanium servers: HP co-developed the Itanium
processor with Intel. Naturally it has a long roadmap
for Itanium systems. Currently, HP offers rack optimized
servers with Itanium 2 processors. The current line
includes the rx2600 (1-2 CPUs) and rx5670 (1-4 CPUs).
Pallab Talukdar, Director, Business Critical Servers,
HP informs that in the next six to eight months HP will
introduce 8-way and 16-way Itanium servers that will
be midrange systems.
Alpha servers: The Alpha line is still significant for
HP as it has several major business installations around
the world. Many Indian enterprises still use Alpha servers
that were purchased from the erstwhile Digital and then
Compaq. So HP continues to launch new Alpha systems
and software, and offer support.
The AlphaServer line includes the DS series (ultra-thin
rack mount and entry-level desktop systems), GS series
(systems for power and scalability), ES series (mainframe
performance at a midrange price).
NonStop servers: These systems are meant
for critical business applications. They are high-availability
machines that run round the clock. NonStop servers are
used for OLTP (online transaction processing) in some
stock exchanges in the country. These systems were originally
built by Tandem Computers (long acquired by HP). The
NonStop server line includes the S76 family, S86000,
and S74 series.
Strategy: Commenting on HP's server strategy
Talukdar said the company would focus on key technology
drivers like consolidation, server partitioning, and
the move to Web-based application development. He said
HP would also work closely with partners like Oracle
and BEA Systems to drive application demand. HP would
also concentrate its energies on its services group.
"We also have Adaptive Infrastructure which is
our strategy for servers and our services," he
After conquering the PC market Dell hopes it can be
as successful with networking products. And Servers
form a key part of its strategy. The Dell PowerEdge
server range comprises of the Value Towers, Performance
Towers and rack servers.
Dell's Value Towers are the PowerEdge SC products. PowerEdge
SC600 uses Celeron or Pentium 4 CPUs. The PowerEdge
1600SC is dual-Xeon processor capable and supports Hyper-threading
The Performance Tower products include PowerEdge 2600,
PowerEdge 4600 and PowerEdge 6600. The products scale
from 6 GB RAM capacity on the PowerEdge 2600 to 32 GB
of RAM on the PowerEdge 6600 and all have ECC and Chipkill
The 5U, dual-Xeon PowerEdge 2600 is recommended for
local and distributed workgroup applications where availability,
performance and expandability are crucial.
The 6U, dual-Xeon PowerEdge 4600 is ideal for medium
to large businesses, corporations and public organizations
running applications that require high performance,
extensive I/O and fast memory throughput.
The PowerEdge 6600 can be powered by up to four Xeon
CPUs in its 7U chassis. Business-critical applications
that need scalable, multi-processing performance, large
on-die cache and higher bandwidth I/O will benefit from
this enterprise-class server.
The rack servers range from the 1U PowerEdge 350 to
the 7U, eight CPU PowerEdge 8450. Also included in this
family are the 1U, dual-CPU PowerEdge 1650; the 2U,
dual-Xeon PowerEdge 2650; the 4U, four-CPU PowerEdge
6650. The newest member of this family is the PowerEdge
1655MCDell's first modular blade product for high
density and uptime.
Acer's servers have been used at branch offices, in
workgroups or as departmental servers. It has a range
of entry-level to lower midrange servers that are targeted
at the SME market. The lineup includes pedestal servers
and rack optimized serversall powered by Intel
processors (Xeon and Pentium 4).
Both the Altos G300 and Altos G510 are entry-level infrastructure
servers (DNS/Wins, DHCP, DC, DS) or file & print
servers. They can host small custom applications or
front-end Internet applications (messaging, Web hosting,
caching, firewall etc). They can also be used for messaging
or as SAN compute nodes. Altos G300 is a single processor
system (Pentium 4) while Altos G510 is a dual processor
Altos G700 and R700 are dual processor (Xeon) systems
which can act as midrange infrastructure servers or
file & print servers. They can also be configured
as front-end Internet servers. In addition they can
act as SAN compute nodes or for HPCC.
The top-of-the-line Altos G900 is powered by Xeon MP
(4 CPUs). It is suitable for Internet and e-commerce
applications (Web hosting and supply-chain management).
It can host e-commerce backend databases and traditional
OLTP and also for enterprise messaging, ERP; as a terminal
server or for server consolidation.
Strategy: "Acer Altos servers have traditionally
been strong in the BFSI (Banking, Financial Services
and Insurance) sectors," says Sam Oommen Thomas,
Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Acer India. "The
plan is to focus on other growth segments (Govt./PSU,
EoUs, Telcos/ISPs/ASPs), through a combination of new
partners and new server/storage solutions."
Brian Pereira can be reached at email@example.com