Microservers won't kill virtualization

Server category attractive to Web companies for compute density and energy savings and has support of Facebook, but not suitable for all enterprises, say industry players.
Written by Liau Yun Qing, Contributor on

Internet data centers and service providers are considering microservers for daily compute tasking, with one player even preferring these physical servers over virtualization. However, vendors noted that not every company should tap this server category.

In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Lum Kong Joe, server platform marketing manager at Intel Asia-Pacific, said Web businesses and Internet service providers (ISPs) make up the early adopter segment for microservers. These players are evaluating microservers--diminutive low-power servers with reasonably good power--for applications such as low-end hosting, lightweight Web servers and simple content delivery servers, rack-based content delivery, very simple Web servers and low-end dedicated hosting, he noted.

In fact, social-networking giant Facebook has stepped forward to say that it prefers microservers over virtualization. According to reports, Gio Coglitore of Facebook Labs said at an Intel press event for microservers that the Internet company's tests found that non-virtualized environments bring "efficiencies and the ability to scale much more effectively". He added that Facebook would rather lose a server and not have the incident impact its service, but in a virtualized environment, the importance of a server is escalated.

While Facebook is bucking the virtualization trend in favor of microservers, a Dell executive noted that the choice to deploy either technology is dependent on a company's business needs. In an e-mail interview with ZDNet Asia, Ng Tian Beng, managing director and general manager, South Asia and Korea, CSMB, Dell, noted that the two technologies are different as they are used to manage different sort of tasks.

"Microservers are not built for running large database applications, but rather, they handle less demanding tasks such as video streaming, or serving up content on a social network," he said.

According to Ng, Dell's microservers allow IT hosting and Web 2.0 companies to run applications on suitable dedicated physical servers without compromising on price, power or density.

On the other hand, enterprises which deal with heavy Web 2.0 and social network tasks will benefit from "virtualizing everything" into a more powerful system to provide the efficiency and agility that they require, he pointed out. This approach enables the enterprise to have a more simplified management and sharing of resources across the data center, and within the company infrastructure, he said.

Intel's Lum is of the same view, adding that microservers are most efficient when deployed for specific applications and workloads. These servers, he explained, will not have enough compute, memory and IO (input-output) bandwidths to handle enterprise applications and workloads, which typically demand processors with much higher performance and advanced capabilities.

Lum added that enterprise workloads are not designed to be run and supported on many computer nodes in the scale-out model tied to microservers.

The Intel executive also pointed out the microserver category is not new and it has been selling low-power Xeon processors for the category for some time. Microservers, he added, will remain a niche segment, making up less than 10 percent of the overall server market segment for the next 4 to 5 years.

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