Small and midsize businesses continue to get the attention of major OEMs, who are offering upgraded systems targeted at the increasingly coveted customers.
IBM on Thursday will unveil upgraded single-processor tower and rack-optimized servers that include such standard features as simple-swap serial ATA drives, integrated IBM ServerRAID 7e RAID-1 capabilities for mirroring the hard drive, and the ability to power on and power off the systems remotely.
IBMs release comes two days after Hewlett-Packard Co. unveiled the first system in its ML100 line of ProLiant systems for SMBs, and a couple of weeks after Dell Inc. rolled out two single-processor servers.
IBMs eServer xSeries 206 tower configuration and 306 rack-optimized server will offer the latest 3.2GHz Pentium 4 chip from Intel Corp. that includes 800MHz front-side bus, said Stuart McRae, manager of xSeries products.
He also said some of the features offered in the systems, such as the simple-swap drives—which enable users to replace drives in a matter of minutes without having to use a screwdriver—and remote powering, can run as much as $500 to $600 as options in systems from other vendors.
“We took the most tangible cost-saving drivers and put them into every system,” said McRae, in Raleigh, N.C.
Both systems will be available by the end of the month. Pricing for the x206 will start at $499; for the 306, pricing starts at $1,339.
Earlier this week, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., unveiled the ML110, the first system in its new ML100 series available globally and designed to give SMBs server functionality for the price of a desktop. The goal was to give SMB customers—many of whom will buy the ML110 as their first system—what they need out of an entry-level server without all the features that theyd find in larger systems but wouldnt necessarily need, such as networking and remote management technologies, said James Mouton, vice president for platforms in HPs Industry Standard Server group.
The system, which is available immediately starting at $499, has the necessary tool sets and software to perform such functions as booting and setting up the server, although HP officials said users also get a lot of the management tools through their operating systems.
The ML110 offers either a 3GHz Pentium 4 chip or 2.6GHz Celeron processor, with up to 4GB of memory.
Mouton said HP has been shipping another single-processor system, the ML150, in Asia, and plans to distribute that worldwide in the future.
Mike Tillges, president of OneSource Logistics LLC, said the key thing he is looking for in a server for his seven-employee business is reliability. His third-party logistics company, which started operations in September 2003, has been using converted PCs for its server needs, while at the same time generating 2.7GB of data on a monthly basis.
“Using a PC as a server has kept me up at night,” said Tillges, in Minneapolis. “Im crunching, for a small business, a lot of data, and if I lose any of it, Im dead. I cant lose that data.”
OneSource has been beta testing the system, and plans on adding one as an application server and possibly more for its database needs. Reliability and ease of maintenance are key factors as the company grows, he said.
“When you start a business, you run mean and lean,” Tillges said. “As far as an IT department, I was it. … I think were going to be banging on this server, and it will be able to take it.”
Both announcements follow Dells rollout in February of its single-processor PowerEdge 750, a rack-optimized system, and the tower server 700.
All companies have identified the SMB market as a key industry segment. During its PartnerWorld conference last week, IBM officials laid out several initiatives designed to bring SMBs into the IBM fold, including a plan designed to make it easier for software vendors and business partners to work with IBM. They also said the company has made a $500 million investment in programs for its SMB partners to help them learn about IBMs products and services and generate demand. There also are sales incentives involved.
“SMB continues to be a rapidly growing segment of the industry,” McRae said. That will continue as technology features continue to be driven down into products targeted for such users, he said.
For its part, HP in September 2003 unveiled its SMB strategy, which included a repackaging of its products and services and a marketing program aimed at the segment. In fiscal year 2003, the company derived $21 billion in sales from the SMB space. HPs Industry Standard Servers group has a unit dedicated to the SMB space.