Rack Servers Forum

Ariel Lindenfeld
Sr. Director of Community
IT Central Station
Senior Planner/Purchaser with 1-10 employees
Looking to understand the market for rack servers and blade servers a little better.  I'm considering investing in an existing reseller but looking to better understand the market.
Bob WhitcombeFor rack servers you have two paths - Large Vendor support and White box. In the White Box market you can save a few dollars and build your own - but then self insure, as all subsequent issues with software and driver incompatibilities and problems are on you. This is a small ball play and is worth considering if you have extra time to diddle the bits and bytes yourself, do the testing and don't have to interact with a lot of users, developers and management. If you are responsible for managing a larger shop you need to go with a major vendor and have four choices - in alphabetical order - Cisco, Dell, HPE and Lenovo. As we look forward in the rack and blade server evolution, the hardware is a commodity dictated by Intel and all vendors release cadence is tied to Intel releases. But you have rapidly come to realize the hardware is the least of your concerns, you are much more focused on software and how these vendors are evolving their solutions to increase automation efficiency, reduce setup time and increase time to repair in the event of a complex software failure. Of the 4 I like the direction Cisco is taking with its SW acquisitions in this space. It has deployed Stealthwatch for security, Tetration for Analytics, Turbonomics for workload optimization and App Dynamics for adaptive automation. This and its investment in cloud services and focus on the hybrid cloud environment, keeps them looking beyond the hardware - which is less than 30% of the IT cost of a system - and squarely focused on reducing the OpEx costs that account for 70%. Moving forward into the great Utility computing model - with some pieces offsite at a colo, some onsite in local wiring closets or a mini data center or some compute and storage in a major cloud provider - Amazon, Azure, Rackspace, etc - you are rapidly moving to a hybrid environment where the latency of network connections, middleware that provides connectors to far flung operations that respond back to end-users creates a complex scenario where monitoring. measurement and protection will determine how efficiently I can deliver services and provide the end-user experience my customers demand. That said let me be clear this is not a full-on rah-rah section for Cisco. They have a superior vision, a unique architecture that facilitates automation in their blade environment, the cash and focus on acquisitions. I just wish they were faster at providing the integrations that will deliver on the seamless solution space they imagine. But they have many great pieces - and if I were a person seeking to understand this market and where things are headed I would pay close attention to their concept of the "Intent-based Data Center". This vision is similar to IBM's Utility Computing from more than a decade ago - but Cisco has more critical pieces - all around commodity hardware.

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