Do microservers have a place in your datacenter?

Can microservers make the jump from hosting companies to corporate datacenters?

There's been a lot of industry buzz this week over Dell's announcement of two new models of their microserver product, the Power Edge C5125 and C5220 and their potential impact on the datacenter. But are microservers something that you should be considering for your datacenter, or are they strictly for the large hosting vendors for whom they were originally developed?  The answer lies in the business demands on your datacenter.

Microservers were originally designed to inexpensively meet the needs of large hosting companies that wanted to be able to offer dedicated server hosting services at a reasonably low price. These servers were positioned as the next step up for customers that were currently using shared hosts, and the pricing model needed to not be one that had a sudden steep jump. Given that you can easily host full-feature websites with everything from blogging tools to full-featured ecommerce sites for $60-$200 a year, hardware to support dedicated hosting services at a competitive price was going to have to be very cost effective.

What we basically ended up with was the antithesis of what many consider the modern datacenter server; a low-power, purpose built piece of hardware designed to serve a single purpose and run a single iteration of an operating system. The new products from Dell both support virtualization, but that sort of defeats the purpose; if you plan on running virtualized environments, you might want to consider more capable hardware. Though there is an argument that running some form of virtualized environment hosting only a single operating system has some advantages when it comes to provisioning and disaster recovery.

The issue here, for many datacenter operators, is going to be the value of dense packed, low power single purpose servers versus large servers running an equivalent number of virtualized environments. As datacenter appliances take on the role of running specialized applications within the datacenter, will there be enough general purpose use for low-power servers filling in the nooks and crannies of the datacenter users server needs?