Server pecking order will be rearranged

Server vendors are about to be squeezed by technology buyers, who are navigating new technologies and increasingly considering options away from the traditional data center fare.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

The server market is in upheaval, vendors will increasingly be squeezed and technology buyers are going to have to think beyond blades in their data centers.

Those were some of the takeaways from a Gartner presentation on server technology and the market. Analyst Carl Claunch's message was simple: IT buyers have to adapt to a Darwinian phase ahead for server vendors.

In other words, the server market is about to get whacked much like the PC industry. After all, a server in many respects is a PC with more horsepower. I noted that the train was oncoming for the server market when rumors about IBM trying to unload its commodity server business to Lenovo.

Claunch said that original design manufacturers, the contractors who build boxes for the likes of HP and Dell, already make 76 percent of all servers. And now those ODMs like Quanta and Wistron are selling direct to end-users. ODM direct sales and self build efforts account for 7.27 percent of the server market.

gartner server market overview

What happens to traditional server vendors in this market? First, they'll get squeezed. And then they'll try to go up market with appliances and integrated systems — think IBM and Oracle. Then comes the specialty boxes like HP Moonshot. Toss in technology changes and the only sure bet is there will be losers in the server market as cloud computing accelerates.

Claunch had the following advice:

  • Don't assume blade servers will meet all your computing needs, but they do offer the greatest peak compute power. 
  • Workload and density trade-offs will affect whether you pick rack, blade or skinless servers. 
  • Rack optimized servers are a good choice if high density isn't possible. 
  • Skinless servers are for single transactions in volume more than availability. 
  • Eye technologies such as silicon photonics, which is chip fabrication with a direct connection to an optical link. Intel has shown a proof of concept. 
  • The server is being disaggregated as components such as server, network, storage and compute are being rearranged. 
  • Low power servers and appliances will offer new options. 
  • Open source is a key option for data centers and all the innovation is there.

Overall, IT buyers need to protect themselves against the inevitable supplier upheaval and exploit new technologies.

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