Serving Up Some Good News

Server innovation is addressing business needs.

While some may think we are in yet another winter of technology discontent, there is reason not to be glum: Change is afoot on the server front.

This year, blade servers will move into widespread availability, clustering techniques are maturing and grid computing is rapidly becoming real. IT managers should be ready to rethink the ways they equip and manage server rooms as higher-capacity machines and new consolidation techniques offer chances for savings.

The industry is still riding on its cushion of hardware purchased during the dot-com feast years, and server sales dropped throughout 2001 and last year, according to International Data Corp. figures. The rate of the drop has been slowing, however, particularly for less-than-$100,000 servers as users take advantage of the compelling price/performance ratio these mass-market servers provide.

The big-ticket behemoths are a hard sell these days, but overflowing server rooms and skyrocketing management costs for hundreds of small systems arent sustainable options either. Thats why advances in blade server and network-attached storage hardware that promise low entry costs and smooth incremental growth—without matching management cost increases—are catching our attention.

NUMA (Non-Uniform Memory Architecture)-aware extensions are coming in Windows Server 2003 and Linux 2.6. While top-tier now, NUMA-based designs such as the just-introduced SGI Altix 3000, with as many as 512 CPUs, or Suns new Sun Fire 15K, with a maximum of 106 CPUs, advance a technology that will be used to advantage on lower-end machines as well.

The combination of expandable chassis designs, the cost- effectiveness of one- to four-CPU server cores and clustering software promise servers that are affordable and manageable. This weeks eWeek Labs report on server consolidation offers guidance on how to run more applications on systems IT has deployed.

Technological innovation must address business needs, and thats what were seeing in servers. IT pros who are open to new designs and approaches will be able to do more with what they have now and pay less for what they need tomorrow.

If that isnt good news, we dont know what is.