The New Economics of x86 Servers

Michael Vizard
Slide Show

Seven Barriers to Server Consolidation

We set out to find what is holding back server consolidation, in the hope that identifying the problems will spur a stronger drive to overcome them - and produce a leaner, meaner data center in the end.

Hewlett-Packard is about to begin shipping its new ProLiant Gen 8 servers based on the new ProActive Insight architecture that the company developed around the new Intel Xeon E5-2600 family of processors from Intel. HP is claiming that the servers will give the average IT staff back a full 30 days a year simply because of all the routine IT tasks that are now being automated.

According to HP's McLeod Glass, HP director of product marketing for industry standard servers and software, HP Labs worked pretty closely with Intel to embed more automation into servers that HP says can often pay for themselves in as little as 30 days. This is a result of the increased level of IT automation being provided and the fact that these servers consume a whole lot less power and space. In fact, HP says that IT organizations adopting the latest version of the ProLiant servers should be able to double data center capacity per watt.

As the saying goes, actual IT mileage will no doubt vary. But at price points starting at $1,723 to $2,878, the fact that new servers can pay for themselves in less than 30 days just serves to illustrate how much the cost of computing is tied up in things that have nothing to do with the actual price of the server. It's not that we're at the point where servers have become disposable, but we have reached a point where the cost of the actual server is not as relevant a factor as it once was. That may be a little difficult to explain to the folks in finance, but it does reflect a new x86 server economic reality. In fact, the folks at HP would go so far as to say it costs more to keep your existing servers running than it does to replace them.

Server times are most definitely changing for the better. There may be far too many of them in your organization, but it's also becoming easier to consolidate them. At the same time, the number of servers that the average administrator can now effectively manage has increased significantly, which means that the cost of IT labor is not increasing in tandem with each new additional server being deployed. In fact, you could make an argument that the basis of physical servers to administrator IT labor costs is declining. It may be hard to appreciate that given all the physical and virtual servers that still need to be managed, but the fundamental math is heading in the right direction.

We all know IT budgets are still fairly constrained. But if you're not looking at x86 server upgrades in the next six to 12 months, it's probably going to cost you more than you realize.

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