Servers, datacenters to see same upheaval as PC industry

Servers, datacenters to see same upheaval as PC industry

Summary: Servers are fun again as Intel and HP pitch new architectures for the datacenter. Server market upheaval is sure to follow---and probably rhyme with what the PC industry has seen.


New architectures. New processor players. New form factors. And a new emphasis on specific task-based workloads.

Welcome to the new reality facing the server industry. The upheaval appears to be rhyming with the post PC era and the changes that mobility, tablets and smartphones have forced.

This week, two major server players---Hewlett-Packard and Intel---pitched new architectures for so-called hyperscale datacenters. These datacenters will be the backbone of the cloud. For HP, the plan is to sell cartridges in systems that are processor agnostic. In this world, even a chip maker like Texas Instruments and its digital signal processors can get into the server business with HP for video and audio workloads. In addition, the ARM architecture will become a reality in the datacenter.

Intel also laid out a plan, which revolves around minimizing the rack in the datacenter. The rack is a staple that has been around forever. As Nick Heath noted:

Intel's reference rack system design will be modular at a subsystem level, allowing storage, CPU, memory and networking to be replaced independently, said Diane Bryant, Intel's senior vice president and general manager of the datacenter and connected systems group at the Intel Developer Forum in Beijing.

HP's vision lines up with Intel's to a large degree. Not so surprisingly, IBM has an event on Thursday to outline its plans for the "new era of computing."

Connecting the dots on the 21st century datacenter: Intel lays out plans for the hyperscale datacenter | Moonshot: Can HP's shot at microserver domination succeed? | Calxeda: ARM-based HP Moonshot 'later this year' | Toolkit: Calculate datacenter server power usage | HP launches first Project Moonshot server: The shape of things to come? | HP launches Project Moonshot, powered with Intel's Atom at first | 

So what's next? Servers will come in more flavors for specific tasks and workloads. Today, the datacenter focus is on hyperscale. Rest assured, enterprise applications and optimizing them will follow. One rack in the datacenter may feature various processors as well as system requirements. The overall goal is to lower power consumption. The companies that provide the guts of a datacenter will compete on new designs and power-saving features.

HP's Moonshot server.


If all this sounds familiar it should. The PC industry had a similar shakeup. Few PC vendors caught the mobility curve and fumbled tablets. Some vendors---Lenovo for instance---did OK with navigating the new world order, but others---say Dell---struggled. Intel is still trying to find its mobility mojo as rivals such as Qualcomm run off with tablet and smartphone market share.

Simply put, not all datacenter players will win. The only certainty with these new reference designs and hardware creations is that some of your well-known enterprise vendors will flop.

The good news for tech buyers is that this revamped server market and the upheaval that comes with it will mean opportunities. May the server and datacenter overhaul speed up.

Topics: Servers, Cloud, Data Centers, Hewlett-Packard, Intel

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  • Cloud conflict?

    To me, this seems like two directly conflicting initiatives. If this server architecture aims to help companies achieve their cloud strategy - an ideal formed around a multi-purpose pool of server resources that allows IT staff to quickly and easily deploy applications within their data center rather than traditional method of specific physical devices for each application - how does this new server architecture help? Described as servers that "come in more flavors for specific tasks and workloads," it seems to specialize and limit hardware of the data center rather than make it cloud-ready.
  • Remember modems?

    Backing up an old 40MB hard drive, over a 45K modem line, was considered silly. The connections are faster now, but the content is bigger so it works out about the same.
    In an office, where multiple people access the same data, it simply makes sense to have a local file server backing up [to clouds, tape drives or whatever] as a background service. What has really changed?
    The big companies are chasing the back end of the pipe: how the remote data gets stored and accessed. The front end? Not so much.
    I'd love to have media streams downloaded to my router, then played over WiFi, rather than relying on my network connection being "up" for the duration of the media stream.
  • What to do next

    HP, Intel, or Dell should purchase "OwnCloud" or a provider like it. The unified cloud will last for a while but OwnCloud will be the disruption to Centralized Cloud Computing. It will take some time for it to get better but I believe it will become "good enough" much more rapidly than some would suspect. People want to be able to have a customized solution at a cheap price point. Cloud computing is cheap but will get more expensive over time and the level of data offered or services provided will far exceed what the average customer needs. Owncloud and companies like it will develop better security measures, functionality, and services at a cheap price and disrupt the cloud computing industry.

    Alternatively HP or Dell could just supply disruptive servers connected to the internet which OwnCloud users could store their cloud in, a separate group might need to be formed out of the main companies for such a project but I predict this manuever could get them back into future relevancy. They could purchase start ups that are working on the smart watches that connect to smart phones via blue tooth connections. Those companies will likely disrupt the current phone providers.