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How NEC Beats IBM, HP

By Drew Robb (Send Email)
Posted Feb 26, 2009


Look over the quarterly server reports from IDC and Gartner, and you almost never see an mention of NEC. That company is part of the "other" category — all those vendors outside of IBM, HP, Dell, Sun and Fujitsu — that comprises around 10 percent of the market. To make matters worse, NEC is far better known on the other side of the Atlantic. So what is it doing to gain greater penetration in the United States? Server Snapshot: NEC may not have a big market presence in the United States, but for enterprises seeking high fault tolerance at a relatively low price, it's worthy of being a serious candidate.

"Our U.S. growth strategy is centered around strengthening channel relationships and expanding our reseller partner base by targeting our competitively priced product line and incentive programs at select enterprise-class channel partners," said Michael Nixon, director of midrange and high-end enterprise server platform product groups at NEC Corporation of America, based in Irving, Texas. "NEC is also focusing efforts on market verticals with unique integrated solutions that leverage other NEC products and strengths."

1000 Series Enterprise Servers

Recent Server Snapshots
Dell
HP
Lenovo
IBM
Sun
Unisys

In September 2008, NEC introduced what it calls its Monster Xeon server as part of its new enterprise server line, the NEC Express5800/A1160. It is tuned specifically to take advantage of the performance and functionality of new expandable 4- and 6-core 7400 Series Xeon CPUs from Intel.

"As recorded by the TPC standards body, the Monster Xeon server, which scales from 24 to 96 processing cores, was the first to achieve 1,400 tpsE performance result running a SQL database and executing the TPC-E benchmark, a record for SQL databases," said Nixon. "The A1160 is designed for the most demanding enterprise database environments and line-of-business processing requirements."

Typically, the Monster Xeon competes against competitive offerings from HP and IBM. Nixon stressed, in particular, the A1160's higher level of scalability, with support from 4 up to 16 sockets, or from 16 to 96-core scalability compared to HP. Compared to IBM, on the other hand, he emphasizes serviceability.

Pricing for the NEC's Express5800/A1160 enterprise server begins at $29,849 for a 4-socket, quad-core Intel E7440 CPUs (2.4 GHz) with 16 MB cache, 8 GB memory, and a 3-year limited warranty.

The other major development in this line is some recently earned Microsoft certifications. The Express5800 1320Xf server became the first enterprise server solution in the industry that certified dynamic partitioning capabilities for Microsoft Windows Server 2008 and SQL Server 2008.

"This enables a single-system, always-on, 24x7, platform for mission-critical windows environments," said Nixon.

100 Series Blades

Over the past year, NEC has brought a range of blade servers onto the market. It assimilates the latest high-density mounting technology in tandem with reliability and availability.

"NEC blades have more DIMM memory sockets and I/O ports than any other blade server, thereby making them ideally suited for virtualization applications," said Ken Hertzler, director of marketing for volume servers and system software for NEC America's IT platform and solutions group.

The NEC Express5800/120Bb-d6 is a diskless blade designed for virtualization solutions. It has a memory capacity of 48 GB, up to six I/O GbitE ports, and two Fibre Channel ports.

"The introduction of this 4-socket blade positions NEC's blade server family as one of the most comprehensive available," said Hertzler.

300 Series Fault Tolerant Servers

Fault tolerant models are probably what NEC is most known for in the United States. It is a system that continues to run applications even though a hardware fault occurs that would normally interrupt application processing. Based on Xeon processors, NEC's 300 series servers have two completely identical server modules running in parallel that operate as one server. The two modules run in what is called 'lockstep,' which continuously checks processing results to ensure the application is running identically on both servers. If a hardware fault occurs in one of the servers, the non-failing server will continue to run the application while the failed server will 'red light' and notify IT that a failure has occurred so it can be fixed. In this way, there is no interruption of the application availability. NEC Express5800 300 series fault tolerant servers start at $17,000.

The most recent addition to this product line, beyond incremental component upgrades, is that the company now offers its fault-tolerant server with VMware ESX as a platform for application consolidation, particularly where continuous operation is paramount.

"NEC's Fault Tolerant server is a highly proven, cost-effective technology deployed in over 10,000 installations worldwide," said Hertzler. "When protection against server hardware failures is required, NEC's fault-tolerant servers deliver a substantial reduction in the overall total cost of ownership by avoiding costly downtime, reducing the time and cost required for IT staff to achieve high availability."

He feels this approach is sounder than the adoption of sophisticated software clustering techniques, as it provides substantial operational savings and simplicity. As the faulty components are isolated at the module level, this simplifies the troubleshooting process.

"Unlike software cluster solutions, only a single logical copy of the operating system and application software is required on the NEC Express5800, since redundancy is achieved at the hardware level," said Hertzler. "As a result, savings are achieved on software licensing fees for operating systems and other popular applications."

NEC's Servers, At a Glance

Server Line
Enterprise Servers
Fault Tolerant Servers
Blade Servers
Target Deployment Express5800/1000 Series enterprise servers address business and most mission-critical operations. The NEC Express 5800/1000 Series of servers are used for consolidation, database, virtualization, and high-performance business applications. NEC Fault Tolerant servers are suited for remote sites that don't contain IT experts, yet can't afford downtime. NEC FT servers are appropriate for enterprise customers, such as Web service providers or data centers requiring management servers running around the clock. FT servers are also useful to the midmarket companies that can use the server as a home for mission-critical systems. NEC Blade servers are ideal for midmarket companies and enterprise branch offices. NEC Express5800 SIGMABLADE Servers systems contain server, storage and network components in a cost-effective design. The management of blade servers is easier than traditional rack-mount servers, the density is greater and the power consumption much lower.
Operating Systems Microsoft Windows, Red Hat Linux, Novell SuSE Linux Microsoft Windows, VMWare, and Red Hat Linux Microsoft Windows; Red Hat Linux and VMware ESX
Servers NEC Express5800/A1160
NEC Express5800/1320Xf
NEC Express5800/1080Rf
320Fd MR
320Fd LR
120 Bb-6
120 Bb-d6
120 Bb-m6
SIGMABLADE-M
SIGMABLADE-H
Entry Price $29,000 and up $17,000 and up $2,210 and up

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