Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

Summary: Do-it-yourself servers designed by Facebook are allegedly poaching server sales from HP, IBM and Dell, but the data is inconclusive at best.


Custom stripped-down servers like the ones Facebook has designed are apparently taking away sales from established vendors such as Dell, HP and IBM, but it's far too early to know whether there will be a hit.

Bloomberg reports that do-it-yourself servers used by the likes of Facebook, Google and Microsoft in data centers threaten Dell, HP and IBM. When I saw the headline, I got excited. Why? I thought there would be some quantification in it. Aside from the fact that 20 percent of the server market is customized, it's unclear how many orders Dell, HP and IBM were really losing. There aren't any concrete examples or figures to back up the premise.

Here's the rub: These Facebook DIY servers have very specific uses. Most of the stripped down servers are used in cloud-heavy environments. For Facebook and Google, the data center is the largest capital expense. It's only natural that they'd go the DIY route.

Also: Facebook open sources its server, data center designs: Hardware fallout to follow

Is your friendly neighborhood enterprise going to go the DIY server route? Probably not. Of course, Wall Street firms may go DIY, but the average company is going to go with what Dell, HP and IBM offer.

When we're all running companies off cloud farms and services, this customized server movement will impact sales. That day is probably years away.

By the numbers, Dell, IBM and HP are showing solid server growth. HP's quarter -- with its spin-off of the PC unit and the purchase of Autonomy -- was a disaster, but the server business held up nicely. If these customized Facebook servers were hurting sales, HP CEO Leo Apotheker wouldn't have been complaining about how Oracle's move to stop supporting Itanium hurt high-end sales.

Rest assured, the server business will have to adapt to new threats. In the long run, virtualization means you'll buy fewer servers going forward. DIY servers will matter too, but most companies aren't going to play with build-your-own servers. We're not all running social networking, cloud services and search algorithms.


IBM talks data center trench warfare with Oracle, HP

Topics: IBM, Dell, Hardware, Hewlett-Packard, Servers, Social Enterprise

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  • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

    Since when are company servers assembled by IT personnel poaching on sales.

    The real problem is these companies are used to replacing servers and computers on a regular basis but with the advent of Windows XP, Windows 7 and Windows 8 coming down the pike the need to replace hardware and software is growing less and less and upgrades by IT personnel are becoming more frequent.

    We are rapidly approaching the time when software will only be replaced when the hardware is and that hardware will be seriously obsolete before it is replaced.

    Computers being replaced every two or three years will no longer happen. It's now five years and growing longer.
    • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

      @shanedr Most big companies are already replacing desktop computers even less often than 2 or 3 years. Now that desktop computers are so powerful, consumers are starting to do the same thing. The biggest change in the next few years won't be in processor speed for desktops. It will be in the ratio between speed and power consumption for portable devices. This is one area where Intel is not the leader. As a result, I think we could see an erosion of Intel's market dominance. Microsoft sees this, too. That's why they are touting Windows 8 on ARM.

      Over the next few years, battery life and portable speed are going to become more important factors for most. The tens of millions of tablet computers which have sold this year are only the tip of the iceberg of what is about to happen. Cheaper, faster, more battery-efficient ultra-portables will also start selling like crazy. Why power up that powerful desktop when you can do 95% of your daily tasks on a thin, portable device that you carry around? Will you still need that desktop? Yes. There are still 5% of tasks which are just too frustrating to attempt on a portable device. But as the portable devices get more powerful, even that 5% will begin to erode. Desktop functionality will eventually be folded into televisions or used in niche markets like video editing. For most, personal computers will be those truly personal devices we carry with us everywhere.
  • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

    <br><br><b>I just got a $829.99 iPad2 for only $103.37 and my mom got a $1499.99 HDTV for only $251.92, they are both coming with USPS tomorrow. I would be an idiot to ever pay full retail prices at places like Walmart or Bestbuy. I sold a 37" HDTV to my boss for $600 that I only paid $78.24 for. I use http://bit.ly/grab2014</b>
  • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

    Do we know who is actually building these things? They are referred to as "designed by Facebook," but it doesn't really say that Facebook has opened a manufacturing facility to build servers. That's sort of an odd use of capital for a company that is only peripherally involved in that activity.

    The world is full of contract manufacturers. For all we know, Dell has signed up to build custom servers.
    Robert Hahn
    • Easy DIY Servers

      @Robert Hahn
      Doesn't take a lot to build out a basic server. Buy a systemboard from a large manufacturer like ASUS or ACER, add the processor of your choice, add lots of memory, add an external RAID disk adapter, populate it with enterprise level hdd, get the right version of Linux, and Bingo, you have a server. Sound and video not required. Add addition ethernet adapters if needed.
      A good IT shop would have most of this equipment on the shelf for instant assembly of servers (as well as replacement spares). We did.
      • You've got ten seconds. Go.

        Yeah, I could build one too. In fact I did build the two here. But I don't think I'd want to build 4,000 of them. That's a new building, and 40 guys, and test equipment, and who-knows what EPA permits.

        Facebook has become a big company.
        Robert Hahn
  • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

    This is about like McDonalds claiming lost sales to home cooked meals LOL......
    IT staff have always built home brew servers for some applications, and always will as long as the components are available. It is called custom servers for custom jobs. They have not "lost" sales, they never had them in the first place.
    • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

      @Gregekeys This is what I was thinking. These were never their sales to begin with.
  • RE: Facebook DIY servers really poaching from Dell, HP, IBM? It's too early to tell

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  • Used to be called Whitebox

    Everything new is old again, or is that everything old is new again? Whatever. WE, in the partner channels, used to call these Whitebox. Been designing and building them for over a decade, both for personal consumption and under contract.
    Brian J. Bartlett