Network servers : Serving in Slowdown

VoicenData Bureau
New Update

Network servers are critical elements of an enterprise's IT set up.

Applications ranging from core transaction automation such as ERP to

collaboration, work flow applications and Web access. Since the basic skeleton

of an enterprise is dependent on its servers network, these simple engines have

taken a pivotal role in an organization's infrastucture.


In QI 2008, the worldwide server market was bullish with a total sale of $13

bn, a 3.5% gain from the first quarter of 2007 according to IDC. Unit sales

topped 2 mn, which, if annualized, means server unit sales will surpass that of

8 mn servers sold in 2007. However, by the end of Q3, the server market started

becoming frail and server sales did not add a great number.


In the current economic slump, the enterprises are trying to reduce

investments, buying only on those products or services that are critical.

Virtualization is the buzz word in the present scenario. The organizations can

get more bang for the buck by implementing virtualization software rather than

buying new servers.

There are plenty of virtualization products in the market right now to help

tighten IT budgets. Enterprise-grade products like VMWare server and VMWESXi are

some of the options. There is also Hyper-V which offers economic benefits

through Windows Server 2008. Customers can consolidate multiple server roles as

separate VMs running on a single physical machine while also running multiple

different operating systems -Windows, Linux and others-in parallel, on a single

server leveraging the power of x64 computing.


Undisputably, virtualization is helping in the short term. Even though server

virtualization reduces footprints, it is a boost for ASPs because virtualized

machines need more memory and CPU to run properly. Sometimes customers want new

iron to run new virtualization hypervisors, especially since newer x64, RISC,

and Itanium processors have features that help hypervisors run more efficiently.

Some hypervisors actually require hardware features to operate, and will not

run on older iron. But virtual private server virtualization tools like Solaris

containers and Virtuozzo can work on older iron.


Going beyond the blade is the slogan for the year ahead. This year began with

hype about green IT, and servers will continue to evolve in 2009 beyond the

blade server stage that exists today. This evolution will simplify the

provisioning of capacity to meet growing needs. It will also make it easier on

the inventory of systems, eliminating the need to track and purchase various

sizes and configurations. The result will be higher utilization because of

lessened 'waste' of resources that are in wrong configuration. Going hand in

hand with growing beyond blade servers, shifting to more efficient products can

allow for a greener energy footprint. There are multiple regulations designed to

govern companies in building data centers due to their impact on power grids and

carbon emissions.

All the major CPU vendors have now firmly adopted integrated memory

controllers with a multi-core NUMA architecture. In the future, we can look to

CPU real-estate being dedicated to application-specific functions and other

techniques such as individual core power scaling being adopted and integrated

into operating systems. Data centers that have already moved to a tiered storage

architecture such as iSCSI, may see the opportunity of further reducing energy

consumption and increasing compute density by entirely removing rotating media

from all other compute tiers as the cost of solid state storage continues to


Experts panel

Ashok Tripathy, general manager & head, Wipro Personal Computing

Vikas Kakkar,
senior technologist and data management ambassador,

Sun Microsystems

Pallab Talukdar,
director, enterprise business, Dell India

R Ravichandran
, director, sales, Intel South Asia


Hybrid Solutions

To match the current needs, systems with hybrid architectures are fast

picking up. Speed and performance is needed to shatter the I/O bottlenecks with

no administrator intervention. In fact, hybrid storage pools with SSDs can

improve I/O performance by 100x. There are products that combine DRAM, SSDs, and

HDDs to deliver improved performance and increased capacity while significantly

lowering power consumption, thus helping in cost efficiency.

For a large number of enterprises, the biggest concern is speed, and enhanced

storage in limited space. Keeping in view these requirements of enterprises, the

server makers have innovative products with high bandwidth low-latency based

infiniband interface on network servers which deliver throughput of 20 Gbps DDR

and 40 Gbps QDR. The Indian market is rich with products with DDR and QDR based

high-speed network bandwidth solutions in network server offering double density

in 1U space.

The hybrid server platform designs offer high storage density in a server

with a high data throughput. These servers can deliver storage density that is

up to five times that of traditional server offerings. These enable companies to

host high-bandwidth applications and data on a single platform at approximately

half the cost of alternative solutions.


By integrating high storage density and throughput vendors have introduced

servers for customers who use demanding high-bandwidth applications such as HPC,

data warehousing/business intelligence, digital media streaming, digital

surveillance and data analysis. Such hybrids reduce system complexity and allows

data center managers to make more efficient use of available space. There are

products that offer up to 24 Tb of storage in seven inches of rack space with

sustained throughput of up to 2 Gbps from disk to memory, and costs as low as $2

per gigabyte.

A range of hybrid server platforms integrate storage, computing and

networking capabilities into one system, to simplify the demands of various

business applications. Also, they support the latest quad core processors, and

hence provide energy-efficient computing environment and improved virtualization

performance. They provide capacity on-demand with swappable compute and storage


Tips for CIOs
  • Weigh ease on budget
  • Rate eco-efficiency
  • Data integrity features keep you up and running
  • Select server on basis of open source software and industry-standard

  • Radically simplified storage management
  • Pick simple to configure and optimize
  • Easy-to-use graphical tools provide real-time visibility
  • Opt for comprehensive self-healing products
  • Consolidate to multicore processors

There are offerings like unified storage file systems that seamlessly

integrate SSDs and HDD and optimize access to different media types. The file

system transparently manages data placement, directing frequently-used data to

fast SSDs and less-frequently used data to slower, less expensive HDDs.

The enterprises look at options that are easy to use and flexible. Simplified

applications and administration are always preferred. Thus the vendor should

design its offering around high data availability with cluster option,

enterprise data services with no additional licensing fee. While opting for

server solutions the enterprises weigh the performance scalability of the kind

of servers they are putting their money into. Reliability, availability and

serviceability are other concerns of the enterprises along with reduction of

space and power consumption. Any compromise on this impacts the business


Hence emphasis on multi-core architecture on server scaling has become

mainstream. Since multi-core processors are highly power-efficient they help to

drive down costs.


The growth in the server segment is largely driven by continual requirement

of increasing performance while cutting costs. The enterprises need to reduce

space and energy costs and increase scalability.

Server solutions should be planned keeping in mind the advantages of

commodity economics, enabling organizations to preserve the cost benefits of

industry-standard components while optimizing uptime. Vendors suggest that

customers do not go by hype and hoopla in server technology and platforms. They

must look at their real needs and choose the right partner who can architect

server solutions to address the need. That is the only way to optimize costs.

Heena Jhingan