Today's server offerings are no longer strictly tailored for the enterprise. As the small to medium business (SMB) sector become more IT dependent, tier one vendors are beginning to package server solutions for the mid-market.
In this SMB Server Buying Guide, Computerworld examines the major players and their offerings for this changing segment of the market.
See part one: SMB server buying guide -- The rise of the SMB server
See part two: SMB server buying guide -- The role of virtualization
Part three: The major players
So who are the major players in this segment of the market and what do they have to offer?
HP has a long history in the mid-market with about 30 per cent of its revenues coming from SMBs. HP has revamped its ProLiant line of server management tools.
HP’s blades are designed to deliver lower power consumption and reduce operational costs while its converged infrastructure offering is an entire solution in a box. A key focus for HP is in the convergence of server, networking and storage elements as well as increased levels of automation.
Another challenge for SMBs is the cost and complexity involved in deploying virtualization. HP leverages its virtual SAN as part of its solution. SMBs can easily unlock direct attached storage inside the servers to create a virtual SAN. Servers specifically designed for SMBs include the ProLiant ML 110 G6 and the ProLiant ML 150 G6.
Dell has a strong worldwide presence in single and dual socket x86 systems because of its price/performance ratio, standard designs and power efficiency. Dell has also refreshed its blade product line and has strengthened its SMB strategy with dedicated staff appointed to deliver solutions specifically tailored to companies with fewer than 500 employees.
Traditionally Dell provided low priced and commoditised systems but the company is transforming itself to a total solution provider working on simplifying IT for its customers. Dell claims that its embedded management capabilities and prepackaged solution simplifies server deployment for SMBs. Revenue for its SMB division has experienced double digit growth and is worth $3.7 billion. Dell’s SMB offerings range from the PowerEdge TM T 105-1 or PowerEdge TM T110 through to the PowerEdge T310.
Gaining a greater share of the SMB market has been part of IBM’s overall strategy for several years now. As a result its presence in this segment of the market continues to grow. Its offerings for this space includes the new Power7-based systems and blades. The new Power 7 processor is designed to support mission critical workloas.
The Power7 Express joins the Power6-based offerings which feature a choice of Unix, IBM I and Linux. IBM’s SMB strategy combines its technology strength with its capabilities in delivering systems that meet the requirements of the mid-market. IBM is emphasizing differentiation through its blade servers which allow different operating systems and workloads to operate on the same chassis. SMB offerings include the Power 550 Express and the BladeCenter LS42 and BladeCenter HS12.
With the purchase of Sun Microsystems, Oracle has embarked on a strategy to sell customers on integrated systems spanning hardware and software. The message: Oracle will invest in Sun and hire new engineers and sales support. As for R&D, Oracle will spend $4.3 billion in fiscal 2011. Oracle’s complete stack is an evolution of the industry and simple systems integration will be a big differentiator. The secret sauce of Oracle-Sun will be the engineering between the software, disk and server subsystems. Oracle is working hard to pitch its new vision going forward.
This vision includes upgrades to its x86 server boxes and a renewed commitment to the SPARC server line. Products include the Sun Fire server line and Sun Netra range which allows plenty of headroom for future growth.
Lenovo and Acer
An important part of Lenovo's SMB strategy is to strengthen its partnerships. It began with lenovo signing an agreement to distribute VMware vSphere 4 on its Think Servers at a global level. Lenovo also has partnerships with Microsoft, Novell, Red Hat, Citrix and Wyse. Lenovo's ThinkServer portfolio has been focused on volume x86 servers for companies with less than 1000 employees.
Competitive pricing is central to Lenovo's strategy as well as easy management for SMBs lacking dedicated IT staff. The company offers "desktop price" servers which are less than $400. Products for SMBs include the ThinkServer TS100, the RS110, RD120 and RD210.
Another company with offerings for the small business is Acer. The Acer Altos G330 Mk2 is ideal for the budget conscious and has flexible system design for easy configuration. It is supported by the latest quad core processing technology and has storage and data protection features. Acer also pitches its Altos solution as a server at desktop prices.
Microsoft and Fujitsu
Designed and priced for small businesses, the Windows Small Business Server 2011 offers reduced complexity and increased manageability over traditional enterprise servers. Many small businesses have used these servers to get their feet wet since they were first introduced in 1997. The integrated platform combines file and printer functions, email, calendar and contact sharing, and document collaboration. This server is for the very small end of the market, suitable for around 25 users.
Recognising some smaller businesses with less than 100 staff cannot afford to buy and manage servers, Fujitsu has launched an offering in a new category Gartner calls the Ultra Low Cost server category. The general price of a low cost server is below $500. By its design these servers are ideal for SMBs as they boast simplified configuration and easy management. This is a relatively new market and Fujitsu announced its offering for this market - the Primergy MX 130 - late last year. The Primergy range starts with the TX 100 S1 right through to the BX620 blade servers.