Author: Jamie Busic
Maybe my perspective is unique being that I helped build out multiple service provider and Public/Private Cloud businesses, however, it seems to me that the days of feature rich servers are over and VMWare is to blame. With VMWare blazing the path with features and Microsoft, Citrix, and the like following close behind them, it is hard to find any feature that a server does short of provide CPU, Memory, and connectivity that is interesting or useful. See the VMWare Feature List Here – It is 11 Pages Long.
In the not distant past engineers focused on internal RAID controllers, management platforms like Dell Openview and HP Insight Manager, and hot plug PCI, all with the idea that the server should never go down and high numbers of management touch points. But with virtualization, do you really care? When you build out a virtualized cluster you manage almost everything from your virtualization orchestrator (VMWare Vcenter, Microsoft System Center, VMWare VCloud Director). When a server needs some new piece of equipment upgraded, you maintenance the server out of the cluster, move all of the VM’s to another host, and turn the server to be worked on off. It can be down for as long as you need with you and the maintenance can be done during business hours.
What about internal storage? While this may make a comeback with the advent of VMWare VSAN (more on that later) there are limited uses for internal storage outside of a couple of drives. Virtualization typically has you putting in some form of Storage Area Network (SAN) for reliable and fast centralized storage. There are those applications that are not great candidates for virtualization, more often in today’s market due to cost and not performance. For those applications, direct attached storage may be the way to go, but usually you will also want to use a SAN, like one from Nimble Storage, for speed and stability reasons.
So you are probably wondering what are the new key criteria when buying a server? I can’t speak to everyone’s buying preferences but here is what has been important to my teams over the years as a Cloud service provider which I believe fairly translates to most everyone’s environment.
There are other items to take into consideration like BMI interfaces etc. but they are really much less important. I don’t know the last time I saw a hot plug PCI adapter on an X86 Server. VMWare and the other players have done a good job in commoditizing the once important server to a motherboard that holds some CPU, Memory, and Network cards. Even Dell has somewhat acknowledged that the world is changing with their no frills C series servers. So the question is with servers making up so much of the revenue for Dell, HP, and Lenovo and the space being commoditized at a rapid rate, how long can they maintain their gross profit margins without innovative features? Are we going to see providers like SuperMicro pickup momentum in the next couple years due to their aggressive no frills pricing model? Will the big players get in the mud to fight it out? Either way it looks like a boon for consumers in the know.
Jamie Busic is a technology Entrepreneur that has founded several successful companies including instantWorkplace, Bluemile Wireless, and Bluemile and has held roles at major institutions such as Dell, L Brands, and Chase. Jamie focuses on Cloud Computing, High Performance Flash Based Storage, Campus & Datacenter Networking, and Security.