EDITORIAL: Faster and self-aware

Somebody (I won't say who) asked what can you write about servers - they just get faster every year.

But vendors of server hardware, the CPUs that drive them, and of services based on servers aren't short of a few words on the matter. Speaking at last week's IDC ServerVision 2002 conference, Vernon Turner, IDC group VP, global enterprise server solutions, foreshadowed the buzzing box (or rack) scenario where IT executives move away from worrying about hardware and that the hardware would move into a cupboard behind the stationery cupboard. They would worry about delivering services. "That's what the business is there for, not to maintain hardware infrastructure," he added. Members of Sage-Au (Systems Administrators Guild of Australia) may be amused by this.

Mike Muller, VP and GM server and workstation operations for Hewlett-Packard Asia Pacific, picked up the theme via the Utility Data Centre concept, where HP was investing "large amounts" to develop the next-generation data centre with "self-aware" management. A search for this concept on HP's Web site only brings up a discussion of the anticipated TCO benefits of server consolidation (using HP's 'Konsolidator' tool) and a picture labelled 'HP Utility Data Centre: server-storage-networks-middleware-systems management-operating systems'. More research to be done, I guess, but the idea appears to be a self-managing data centre which does a bit of everything. Echoes of IBM's project Eliza?

Gary Cotterill, business development manger, enterprise systems products, Sun Microsystems, confessed to being an old school Cobol programmer who helped "create the fake emergency that was Y2K - which was solved rather well", and then launched into a "then, now, and future" discussion of Sun's Risc-processor Unix server capability. He traced the evolution of Unix servers over the past 20 years from one CPU to the 106+ CPU monsters of today which also come with up to half a terabyte of RAM and petabytes of storage. This evolution had brought a one million per cent growth in scalability - a growth largely based on the interconnect (between processors) rather than Moore's Law (and you'd expect a Sun guy to point that out). The future included one of hardware and software self-sizing, self-diagnostics, self-healing and real-time capacity planning. Maybe the Sage-Au dudes will have to adapt.

AMD's manager, market development group server and workstation product marketing, Mark Tellez, was eager to dispel the Texas-based company's image as a 'fast follower' by stressing an impressive new patents track record. He described the move to 64-bit Intel architecture as evolutionary, and one which AMD could help along by making all its eighth generation processors able to run 32-bit and 64-bit applications natively. AMD's Itanium challenger, Opteron, formerly codenamed SledgeHammer, will debut next year in one- and two-chip workstations and in servers that handle up to eight hammers.

Faster and self-aware? New servers will be seeking therapy before you know it. (I'll need therapy if I have to cope with too many more of these terabyte-long job titles.)David_Beynon@idg.com.au.

Editor in chief.

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