Fewer, Bigger Servers
The overall impact of these trends is the consolidation of servers that are easier to maintain and less expensive to operate. “The important trend is consolidation of messaging servers into fewer and fewer servers that are larger and larger and that are clustered in data centers,” said James Kobielus, a senior analyst at the Burton Group.
The result of centralization is that fewer operating systems are run simultaneously. This means that administrative costs and time are saved, enabling personnel to be redeployed or work at getting more out of the software.
Kobielus says that squeezed budgets are encouraging enterprises to drive as much value out of their e-mail infrastructures as possible. The most cost-effective way to do this is to consolidate servers. This eliminates multiple points of failure and generally increases efficiency.
“Those hubs are in data centers in big cities, very larger servers — Unix, Solaris, Windows 2000,” Kobielus said. “These are highly scalable clusters that can be load balanced and generally have the ability to do failover — if one goes down, the others can pick up the load.”
Lotus agrees, and noted that it has even taken this approach internally. “Through a number of technologies and tactics we’ve consolidated a ‘wheat field’ of servers’ to a few. In Europe we’ve gone from 28 to 2,” said senior marketing manager Arthur Fontaine. “We eat our own cooking.”
Perhaps the biggest push to consolidation is Oracle’s new Collaboration Suite, which is designed to run on an Oracle 9i relational database. According to the company, this enables one central source for both end users and administrators. These groups dip into the database through Oracle 9i Application Servers sitting atop the databases. The system, according to Oracle, is designed to increase the number of users that can be supported to about 10,000.
“The architecture is a database-centric messaging system,” said Nienhuis. “Everything is stored there.” He added that the result can be a much lower total cost of ownership and that other vendors are looking at similar architectures.
A subsidiary trend to server consolidation, Kobielus said, is that the management of each surviving machine is more vital. This has led many enterprises to consider outsourcing administration to specialists such as IBM and EDS. “There are dedicated network administrators watching those server farms 24×7 because they are so critically important. Maybe outsiders are brought in to do it.”
Software will be impacted as well, Kobielus noted, “They want to make sure that the software can scale up to the big processors, to take advantage of features of the hardware and OS environments, such as clustering and hot swapping of disc drives … They want to make sure they can sell into the large server farms.”
The theme that runs through collaboration and groupware space in early 2003 is clear: Enterprises are seeking mobility, support for IM, and the capability to offer stripped-down and robust applications on different systems. Most of all, however, they are seeking ways to reduce the amount of money it takes to buy and operate collaboration and groupware services.