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Hardware Today: Server Room Crystal Ball

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Dec 27, 2004


By any measure, 2004 won't go down as a landmark year in the evolution of the server marketplace. Sure, everything got a little better — more powerful processors, more RAM, improved architectures, and enterprises that spent more money, but vendors largely served up incremental gain, rather than the proverbial better mousetrap.

By any measure, 2004 wasn't a year of massive change in server rooms. We check in with the analysts to see what 2005 has in store for blades, dual-core processors, server spending, and more.

"2004 saw more maturity in blade technology — specifically support for more I/O options from IBM and HP — plus Dell re-entered the market with a new blade product," said Gartner analyst John Enck. "We also saw more attention focused on rising power and cooling demands of x86 servers of all form factors."

Therefore, rather than looking back at the fairly ho-hum 2004, we're opting to look ahead and see where these emerging trends may be taking us in the year to come.

Mandatory Server Upgrades

The coming year could see a bonanza in server replacement, as well as consolidation of multiple small units into one or two larger boxes.

Many companies invested in new infrastructure and servers in the run up to Y2K. Then, hot on the heels of the "IT apocalypse," came the dot-com bust, and hardware spending has been sparse for the past several years. During 2004, budgets began to loosen up a little, and that trend is likely to continue in 2005.

"Many companies are now looking at server upgrades and server consolidation," said Clive Longbottom, a business process analyst at the U.K.-based IT consulting firm, Quocirca.

Ideally, hardware should be replaced every few years. With Wintel boxes in particular, three years can render the equipment near-obsolete. Many organizations, though, are still clinging to stuttering (and soon to be unsupported) NT boxes. The coming year could see a bonanza in server replacement, as well as consolidation of multiple small units into one or two larger boxes.

Blades in the Shade?

Some regard 2004, as the end of the server blade honeymoon. The novelty value of the vision has worn off, and serious real-world issues, such as heating and cooling, have surfaced. Toward the end of the year, though, blades gathered more momentum, indicating they will be a major force in 2005 and beyond. Most recently, RLX, the vendor that coined the product name, announced it will no longer sell the servers themselves and will instead focus on the management software that drives the blades.

"The blade market has been relatively dormant and vendors haven't marketed their products particularly well," said Longbottom. "As we move towards more of a virtualized and service oriented world, the blade makes much more sense, and I think we will see an uptick in this area next year."

Gartner's Enck agrees.

"The coming year will see continued evolution and vendor pushing of blade technology," said Enck. "Look for notable improvements in the software stack that manages blades."

Dell, for example, recently re-entered the blade market. The PowerEdge 1855 has increased density and a lower total cost of ownership than traditional 1U rack servers. Dell's architecture supports up to 10 servers in a 7U chassis. According to Antonio Julio, from Dell's PowerEdge server marketing group, the blade server consumes 13 percent less power and generates less heat than Dell's 1U servers, which helps reduce operation costs.

"We feel that blades will continue to gain traction this year and become even more widely deployed," said Julio.

>> Dual Core, Convergence, the End of the OS?

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