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Hardware Today — Midyear Server Report Card Page 2

By Ben Freeman (Send Email)
Posted Jul 12, 2004


The Virtual On-demand Grid

As predicted, virtualization is found virtually everywhere in 2004. Speedy Infiniband reduces latency, enabling scale-out machines to be transformed easily into scale-up clusters. EMC's VMware has consistently innovated to keep ahead of its fast-emerging market.

Grid is also becoming more of a reality. Maria DeGiglio, an analyst at the Robert Francis Group, attributes this in part to POWER5. "POWER5's Virtualization Engine will enable customers to be truly on demand," she said. In addition, POWER5's and Sun's new 64-bit UltraSPARC IV both bring Chip-Multi-Threading to such tasks.

Vendors are beginning to discuss heterogeneous grids compatible with products from other vendors. IBM, Broderick says, has the deep pockets to drive the initiative, but others are committed as well. "I'm not going to judge or test their veracity, but it's hard as heck to do," he warns.

Another factor in grid maturation is whether enterprises' corporate culture is grid ready. As an example, Broderick cited the plight of two IT executives from different departments of the same company. "We may be peer executives, but I don't want you running over to steal cycles on my machine tonight when I might need them," he said, "I'm not paid or motivated to help you, to be blunt, until our boss, the CEO, says, 'Okay, go grid it.'"

And until then? "We'll go drink and play golf together, but get the hell out of my computer department, thank you very much."

For enterprises not ready to reach deep into their pockets to create a grid pool, one option proving popular is IBM's Deep Computing Capacity On-Demand program, where they can rent supercomputing power on an as-needed basis.

Cold Storage?

Broderick sees one "startling bellwether" in 2004's storage climate: the long-awaited arrival of IBM's Storage Tank in the form of the IBM TotalStorage SANFS, which provides a unified file system from a SAN for Windows, Linux and Unix servers. Though it technically occurred in mid-November 2003, the full effect of the Storage Tank is now being felt. Proponents call it a powerful file-sharing solution, while detractors yell "proprietary dinosaur!"

The lines in the big picture for storage are blurring as NAS devices and SANs become more indistinguishable and interwoven, with NAS devices functioning as Storage-Tank-esque gateways to SANS.

Fibre Channel has carved a niche for itself as the storage data transfer alternative of choice, with organizations like NetApp maintaining a leadership role in iSCSI development. Infiniband storage looms as a near-future possibility. Mostly though, Broderick believes storage technology has followed Moore's Law, becoming faster and less-expensive.

Cliffhangers

With half the year remaining, these developments lead mainly to more questions. Will Sun's shakeups be productive or initiate supernovas? Will HP dump Itanium-2 in response to cold customer shoulders? Will Dell continue to eat market share with its scrappy low-end focus? Will IBM continue to be an analyst favorite in every category?

Only time will tell for sure.

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