Hardware Today: Unisys Server Snapshot

It hadn't exactly been a watershed year for Unisys in terms of new server releases and announcements — a few enhancements to its ES7000 server line, a couple of processor updates, better management capabilities, and the forging of a stronger line with Red Hat. Then, last week, Unisys announced its Real Time Capacity (RTC) server series.

Last week, Unisys unveiled its Real Time Capacity server series. What has else has the vendor been up to since its last Server Snapshot?

The idea behind ES7000 RTC is four-fold: remove the risk of running out of capacity, give organizations the ability to maintain high utilization rates, eliminate the financial risk of overspending on capital equipment that is never used, and reduce up-front acquisition costs. Unlike other on-demand Unix-based offerings, Unisys is the first to make Intel-based Windows and Linux servers available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

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"Unfortunately, today's IT complexity has often stolen control of the infrastructure away from the CIO," says Leo Daiuto, president of systems and technology at Unisys Corp. "For CIOs and IT managers, it's all about having a set of shared computing resources that are tuned and sized dynamically and automatically based on business-driven demands."

Unisys research reveals that most enterprises are using only 15 to 20 percent of their server infrastructure. According to Jack Heine of Gartner, by 2007 organizations with more than 200 servers will annually waste between $500,000 and $720,000 supporting underutilized application-server combinations. One way to reduce this baseline cost is to eliminate poorly utilized hardware and software associated with older, seldom-used applications. Gartner estimates this practice can reduce IT budgets as much as 20 percent.

Many organizations have chosen the server consolidation route to lessen this problem. Indeed, that was one of the driving forces in the ES7000's creation. Unisys pushed its flagship server as a means of taking many small Windows boxes and loading them all onto one large ES7000 data center server to improve utilization rates and overall manageability. That approach may work well for some, but it isn't universally workable.

"Not everyone can do a consolidation," says Mark Feverston, vice president of enterprise server marketing at Unisys. "Some find it too hard to get there due to current workloads or their existing application mix. Other just don't have the time."

Unisys' solution is to allow clients to purchase the capacity they need, adding more as time goes on. Instead of following the standard model of buying a great deal more capacity and waiting several years before it is used, enterprises buy a large box now and pay only for what is used.

Unlike other on-demand Unix-based offerings, Unisys is the first to make Intel-based Windows and Linux servers available on a pay-as-you-go basis.

Feverston says the service is available for Xeon- and Itanium-based servers running Windows or Linux. When you buy the server, anywhere from 33 percent to 100 percent additional capacity is available. The additional capacity is turned on in single-processor increments, either on a short-term or permanent basis. If the new arrangement exceeds current licensing parameters, Unisys takes care of the administration and sends the customer the required licenses.

"The IT manager turns on more capacity by clicking to an icon on the console, identifying the specific server, indicating how much, and for how long," says Feverston. "Within 15 minutes, he has a key to unlock the desired capacity without having to deal with any sales people, technicians, or having to open up the server box itself."

Another aspect of the on-demand service is that no premium is paid for adding potential capacity on the floor. If it isn't used, the customer pays solely for the configuration that is. Further, to prevent an enterprise from getting sucked into paying so much for temporary capacity that it ends up paying more than the full capacity is worth, Unisys set up the program so that the fourth time temporary processors are used, they become permanent. It belongs to the enterprise without further payment. Customers can also set ceilings on the number of consecutive temporary days that can be used.

"Competitive offerings from IBM, HP, and Sun often make the on-demand process time-consuming and laborious," says Feverston. "There is typically a lengthy contractual process or you have to deal with sales staff or technicians to set it up for you."

Feverston sees two types of candidates for these on-demand capabilities: those that experience seasonal spikes, such as retail firms (e.g., Mother's Day and Christmas) or educational institutions (e.g., the start of the semester); and those with a project basis, such as a new SAP or Siebel implementation. In the latter case, the company might be rolling out the application organically. One department gets the system; then, six months later another joins in, and so on. They don't require all the capacity upfront but will in the long run. With Unisys' on-demand option, they can have it ready without having to pay the full price now or adding more servers later.

>> Unisys at a Glance

This article was originally published on Jun 13, 2005
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