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Demand For Custom Datacenter Servers Rising

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the shut-up-and-take-my-money dept.

Cloud 103

With his first posted submission, SpaceCracker writes "According to this Bloomberg article, hardware giants like HP and Dell are losing out to Intel and others who've adapted more quickly to the trend of shifting from traditional, off-the-shelf servers to custom-tailored machines. 'Buyers say custom servers provide a cheaper, more efficient way of meeting the boom in demand for personal data shared via the Web. A lot of that demand can be met by less expensive machines shorn of the components, upgrades and backup services that server makers traditionally offer to large corporations.'"

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103 comments

Not custom... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380444)

Not custom, just not bloated. Bloat, both in hardware, operating systems, and "standard desktops" has become so bad that people are willing to pay a premium to remove some of it. The high end Intel server I got from System76 had nothing on it I did not need, and was cheaper than others, even while being "custom." The Linux drivers were a plus as well.

Re:Not custom... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380468)

Yup.

The sheer amount of shit that the major manufacturers put on PCs. HP is awful for that with all of their "assistants" and "wizards" and crap like that, and everybody wants to give you a bit steaming pile of trial-ware.

Getting a machine stripped of all of this junk is pretty damned hard.

Re:Not custom... (2)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380498)

That is just software. How about hardware? Why do you need a chipset with high end RAID and 12 SATA ports when you are going to install a LSI card? Look under the hood and you see the same crap, but worse.

Re:Not custom... (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380514)

That is because they are using this to improve margins. Much like the car dealer will lie about how those alloy rims only come with a higher trim package, they don't how else would he get replacements, hardware vendors want to bundle crap too.

Depends on expected run (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380824)

If they think 98% of the market is going to go with the onboard, it's cheaper for them to have a single part with an unused component 2% of the time than to maintain two motherboards with different chips populated with independent replacement stock (or to make it a field pluggable module). If they relax warranty promises or have a handful of customers driving tens of thousands of servers for one run, they can (and do, as pointed out in the article) make exceptions.

Re:Not custom... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381312)

Chipsets don't have high end raid on them they have a software raid and if you are lucky a little but of help with XOR.
The simple answer is because that is what is on the chip set and using a custom chip set with less will cost more.
A lot of this stripping down is using desktop CPUs and chip sets instead of the server parts because they are cheaper . LSI cards? Nope they want two Giga-E ports. They don't use local disks they use SANs.
I am sure at some point someone will come up with a server that just has a SD slot in the front for you to put the boot image on at some point.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Walter White (1573805) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381456)

...
A lot of this stripping down is using desktop CPUs and chip sets instead of the server parts because they are cheaper . LSI cards? Nope they want two Giga-E ports. They don't use local disks they use SANs.
I am sure at some point someone will come up with a server that just has a SD slot in the front for you to put the boot image on at some point.

No doubt. But if this is the case, why not just a processor, RAM and some Giga-E ports?

Won't the boards need some facility to set up the BIOS and/or perform diagnostics? It would be great to do that via LAN but I'm not aware that any systems support that (though that might say more about my lack of knowledge than actual capabilities.) Perhaps that could be handled off line using a plug in card that supports video and USB. Is it cheaper to add a PCI slot or USB and simple video?

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37382450)

If I could build a custom server, I'd go with the lowest power sucking versions of the CPU, RAM and chipset. These are only available as laptop parts at a premium or as server parts... at a premium. The 8 and 10 core versions of Xeons are unusable except in very specific conditions.

However RAM, there is never enough RAM. It pisses me off to no end that the most efficient way to colo servers is to buy the most expensive configuration that the colo offers, or build one yourself for about 20% of the price. Yes, I'll build 4 web servers with 8 cores and 64GB ram each and it will fit in my thermal/energy envelope of 15A. Otherwise I have to rent 32 servers that suck up 8 times as much power and cost.

Here's a tip of anyone is reading... whatever the colo offers, is a terrible deal. You are better off buying a pair of 1 or 2 year old machines for the fixed asset cost than you are using the colo's 4 year old machines.

Re:Not custom... (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386038)

You should see what Rackspace wants to increase your monthly fees by, if you increase your server RAM from 24GB to 48GB. I figured even if they want to charge us 'Dell Prices' for the upgrade, hell even 'Apple prices' , I'd be fine with that. But they want to increase your fee EVERY MONTH because you have a more powerful server.

Our data has grown 50% in the last 24 months, and buying 48GB would have been incredibly expensive at the time. But I wasn't here so I didn't get to spec out the machine and just ship it to them.

Re:Not custom... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382502)

You can have KVM over IP or serial over LAN for a server. You could even use a good old fashioned UART which would be as convenient as a USB port and and video port. Truth is that the average sever should have as much use for a video system as a submarine has for a screen door.

As to why not just a processor, ram and Gig-e ports? Simple computers are not that simple anymore. A modern X86 cpu needs and chipset to interface that ram and network adaptor and the rest is economics.
If you are going to make a chip set you might as well have it support PCI-e, USB, and SATA so it can be used in as many configurations as possible. The more you make the less they cost and the more profit you make.
They often include at least one UART, Parallel port, and often PS/2 ports. Those ports of often included just because they take next to no space on the chipset. Now just because those features on there doesn't mean you have to use them. Now for a google or facebook they may go as far as creating custom motherboards but I bet that they will use standard chipsets.

Re:Not custom... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383588)

Modern servers have a BMC built-in for OoBM, that speaks IPMIv2. If the server has power, the BMC is running, and getting an IP address via DHCP (or static address if configured).

Besides remote power on/off, querying sensors, etc., IPMI offers serial-over-lan with bios redirection. You get a console over ethernet at the hardware level. ipmitool is great.

Re:Not custom... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386662)

Is it built in at the board level or is it still an add in card. When you think about it such a device would be painfully simple. just take any microcontroller on the marketed and have it emulate a UART, VGA, and PS/2 ports and then add a network port. If you set it up to use POE then the BMC would run even if the server didn't have power and could at least sound an alarm about a power fault for that machine.

Re:Not custom... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37391548)

Dell has a BMC built in to every server (AFAIK). The add-in card (DRAC) is only needed if you want an extra ethernet port, or the web interface and (GUI) KVM features.

HP has their iLOs built in to every server as well (AFAiK), which will do the IPMI thing once the proper software is loaded.

Supermicro, I recall require(d) an add-in card, but that could be old news.

Just about any plain vanilla Intel server boards have IPMI built-in as well (they wrote the spec after all). Even old P4/Xeon boards have had IPMI (perhaps the older v1.5 spec) built-in for a good number of years.

Tyan is in the same boat, they've been an early adopter of IPMI, too.

These days, IPMI is pretty much standard equipment, like a serial port.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381726)

A server that just has a SD slot in the front for you to put the boot image on at some point exists, costs $40, and can be found by googling Spinneret Server.

Re:Not custom... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383516)

I am sure at some point someone will come up with a server that just has a SD slot in the front for you to put the boot image on at some point.

Nope... PXE and/or iSCSI target LUN, NOT an SD slot. You can do this right now with most servers. TOE and the like. Throw in IPMI + SOL and you don't need the serial ports, k&m, vga, etc. You don't really even need the power button. If we could pull more power over CAT-6, servers wouldn't even need power cables, it could be 100% ethernet... Plug two CAT-6 cables into your newly racked server, and go home.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383818)

Nope, they need to be laser-powered over fiber. Freakin' laser beams!

Re:Not custom... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386444)

Good point about PXE. I don't think you are going to see a good sized x86 server that will run over POE anytime soon but it would be nice.

Re:Not custom... (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37390846)

Booting to an iSCSI target is builtin to most servers' firmware at this point. The ToE takes care of the performance issues, and the OS doesn't even know the disk isn't a local block device.

PXE boot (with NFS mounts or whatnot) was the old way. Still works, even the lowest-end PCs can do it easily, but iSCSI SAN over gigE is a much better solution these days.

Re:Not custom... (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 2 years ago | (#37392100)

Good enough. I do not deal with big time servers much so thanks for the education.
Now you are making want to add some remote management to my home servers.
maybe when this comes out http://www.raspberrypi.org/ [raspberrypi.org] I can use it to do a little bit of home-brew server management With SPI, I2C, a UART, and a little GPIO I could tie in the reset switch, serial port, power switch and some sensors. Unless the bios supports redirecting the bios over serial it will be limited but for home use it should be a fun project and massive over kill.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37399120)

PXE provides a distinct characteristic from iSCSI boot. PXE can/is used in some cases to start iSCSI (e.g. chaining iPXE). PXE can be used to do ram-hosted OS for reduced steady state network utilization.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380578)

Yup.

The sheer amount of shit that the major manufacturers put on PCs. HP is awful for that with all of their "assistants" and "wizards" and crap like that, and everybody wants to give you a bit steaming pile of trial-ware.

Getting a machine stripped of all of this junk is pretty damned hard.

Hello, it looks like you're trying to set up a new server? Would you like me to assist you?

The big companies' main flaw is assuming that all of their users are idiots (including system administrators)

Re:Not custom... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380612)

The big companies' main flaw is assuming that all of their users are idiots (including system administrators)

Continuing to use them as they continue to not meet your needs, means they are correct in that assessment. As custom builds and white boxes make it back into the data center, they may try and go after a market with a clue, and a budget.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380630)

The big companies' main flaw is assuming that all of their users are idiots (including system administrators)

Well, you are talking about people who are going to run Windows on their servers...

Re:Not custom... (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385826)

Sometimes being a systems administrator requires understanding that not every problem can be solved with a hammer. Linux does not make a good email server. Linux is ok at DNS, but it is not as easy to manage as Windows. Linux is very good at web servers. Linux is awful at Active Directory. Being a good systems administrator means that you recognize where different systems are good, and where others work better.

IT BEGAN (2)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380750)

With Compaq SmartStart.

What a hell! Then, they required it for initial boot! And every other manufacturer saw this as worthy of emulation.

They were awfully captive to a Windows-oriented market, and driven by MS.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380832)

"The sheer amount of shit that the major manufacturers put on PCs. HP is awful for that with all of their "assistants" and "wizards" and crap like that, and everybody wants to give you a bit steaming pile of trial-ware.

" ... for desktops you do know about PCDecrapifier and CCleaner right?

Who puts these on a server? I highly doubt HP would be that dumb to include this on a server as I doubt any Lan Admin would want Windows Messenger and to play the latest spyware included games.

Any company worth there salt does a wipe and a fresh install of Windows Server so the preinstalled junk is not important. If not then they need to fire the tech/admin people seriously. ... as for hardware bloat like SATA RAID ports another poster mentioned. Don't use them. When handling $500,000 worth of data who cares if your server costs $40 more? If you use that SCSI RAID or SAN it wont matter as the OS wont talk to the other hardware.

Re:Not custom... (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383862)

... a fresh install of Windows Server ...

... When handling $500,000 worth of data ...

???

Re:Not custom... (1)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385148)

I'm assuming that people buying 10,000+ servers do care if the servers cost $40 more...

Re:Not custom... (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385874)

I read the first two comments and immediately recognized that they were made by people who have never unboxed a server before. When I get in the servers from Dell, Oracle (Sun), Supermicro, whoever, they don't even have the RAID setup. Why would I want the monkey who assembles servers for Dell to setup the RAID, inevitably they don't set it up how I want it for the server I am building.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380886)

Sony's

Fresh Start

Fresh Start provides a basic computing environment where specific VAIO® applications (like VAIO® Media Gallery and VAIO Picture Motion Browser), trial software and games are removed from your unit prior to shipment. Any additional software applications added to your laptop will not be affected by this option.

option is free if you upgrade to Windows 7 Pro ($50). Dell probably has this option too.

Re:Not custom... (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381416)

Not to sound snarky, but don't you just reformat and reinstall the OS? Yeah, it's a big step for your average Joe, but this is Slashdot.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381658)

Um, because no retail disk is included on the box anymore?
A whole decade ago "Windows home re-install" has morphed in functionality to
a) "wipe with pirate copy and turn off Windows Update [insecure]"
b) buy retail sat full price. Unlike Win98, Windows XP+ MSRP is not [amazon.com] under $199USD unless you go *online* and enjoy a slows wait for shipment.
c) finally, using that OEM DVD-R you were consistently badgered to burn on the original install week... resulting in the same shovelware-ridden factory default you were thinking we could avoid. Some of us like/need our software to be legal, especially when working with paying, lawyer-wielding clients.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381868)

Why can't you use a pirated copy of the same OS and use the key that is undoubtedly on a sticker on the bottom or side of the machine?

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37383270)

MS has different license keys for volume, oem, retail, etc... You can't use a pirated retail license key for an oem install, and you can't use a volume license key for an oem install either. Windows knows the difference when you try to enter them.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383380)

Assuming you're not bullshitting, and have an actual license, call the number it asks for and explain the situation. They're likely to not give a shit unless that same key has been activated a bajillion times.

Re:Not custom... (1)

EvilJoker (192907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37392080)

While this was a major PITA in XP/2003 editions of everything, it is not an issue with later versions, including Win7/Office 2007. When you issue the commands to change the key, it will change the distribution channel as needed. I have personally confirmed this on Win7 Retail, Volume, OEM, and OEM SLP, as well as OEM and retail Office 2007.

Activating a unique key from an OEM SLP system (the key on the COA, when it came preinstalled) is a bit more difficult, but that has nothing to do with what media you used to install. Even here, all you have to do is activate by phone- and it's an automated process, where you speak/dial a set of numbers, and it reads back a different set of numbers.

Re:Not custom... (1)

RatherBeAnonymous (1812866) | more than 2 years ago | (#37403708)

There is no need to pirate anything. Download the ISO from a reputable source and register using the license code stuck to the computer links [techpp.com]

I just did this last week for my niece on her brand new HP laptop. The license code was under the battery. I did have to call Microsoft to activate manually.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385958)

Since the article is about datacenters, and that would mean business, who even uses the OEM copy of Windows? What company that uses Windows doesn't have Open Licensing?

What large company doesn't have a company image they blow onto new desktops/servers?

Re:Not custom... (1)

alphatel (1450715) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381062)

We've slowly been migrating back to white box servers as the cost of great hardware declines and the ability to tailor the project directly to the needs of the specific instance increase dramatically. We have some boxes with 12 SSD on Raid10 with redundant power, and other boxes with 4 Sata 1TB drives unstriped with 12 Gigabit nics. Customs don't take long to setup once you have the handle on how to match your components, rack, power, etc.

The major hardware providers have to mark up every step of the way to make enough money for shareholders. The hardware gets a markup, the division that assembles it gets a markup, the OS installer gets marked up, the warranty which is from a foreign source gets marked up. What's left for the buyer? Lots of bloatage.

Re:Not custom... (1)

DeadboltX (751907) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381186)

It's not bloat, it is just common features that they don't need. Is your car bloated because it comes with seat belts, air conditioning, and windshield wipers? SATA controllers and PCI-X slots are not "bloat", but they are features some companies don't need.

Re:Not custom... (1)

justforgetme (1814588) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383898)

You are right cars are not bloated for the reasons You mention.

But if you would replace the driver airbag in a car with a shotgun I bet you everybody would all of a sudden drive like a responsible person ;-)

Re:Not custom... (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385990)

I walked into work today shaking my head, it baffles me why people drive so badly around here.

Re:Not custom... (1)

unencode200x (914144) | more than 2 years ago | (#37423500)

Agreed, engineering time, components testing, multiple warranty options, global distribution channels for repairs/parts, etc. are not bloat. However, to each their own.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Anomalyst (742352) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381230)

Unfortunately, System76.com lists ONLY Intel servers.

Re:Not custom... (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386062)

Then buy Dell, HP, whoever. Servers don't come with the bloat as generally, servers come blank.

I look at system76.com, click servers, click configure, go to hard drives and wonder who the hell needs a 500gb system drive? They don't even offer 160GB drives for the system, how is that custom? I thought maybe they just aren't sold anymore, then checked Newegg, and look, you can buy tiny drives if you want! So yeah...not a very good custom house when you can't split the system and data drives on a server...

Re:Not custom... (1)

houstonbofh (602064) | more than 2 years ago | (#37387552)

You can with partitions... And if you are running full RAID, it makes sense to have that failsafe in your system drive as well. But if you want a smaller drive, call them. I got drives for mine that were not on the web site. (Although they were options about a week later)

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381472)

Yes, custom as in customized. The hardware specs of many of their systems is different. They build machines from scratch, and by scratch I mean real scratch, not buying pieces at your local Fry's. They ask for specific sizes of boards, specific profiles, power consumption, etc. They have the money to pay for customized components that the average company/person doesn't have. Therefore, they can politely ask manufacturers to give them a quad port network card that fits in match box.

Re:Not custom... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37382462)

Perhaps some people are buying "not custom, just not bloated" machines, but quite a few corps are buying actual custom servers. Facebook is perhaps most notable for their open compute (http://opencompute.org/) initiative where they build the DC, servers, software... everything from the ground up. Their servers are 1.5u, if I recall correctly.

If you're buying in enough bulk, it's more efficient to go straight to the sources and have them build out custom racks that are delivered and plugged in. Completely custom in almost every way.

Just my $0.02.

Custom Tailored for your "network" (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380448)

We at Cloud Xtreme systems (cx) have the perfect system for you, it "stretches" seamlessly to your requirements. [www.goatse.ru]

HP and Dell do this to themselves (2)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380462)

If you want 12 core Opterons you are automatically required to get a 2U machine from dell. It does not matter than the 1U machines could use those parts, they do this to improve their margins.

Lots of stuff like that, feature X only is enabled on Platform Y. Intentional crippling of hardware leads to this big buyers side stepping these vendors.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380586)

If you're buying your servers from Dell, you're fucked anyway.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380674)

No need to point out the obvious.
Lots of companies for one reason or another do though, quite often vendor is a top down decision.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386078)

Dell is very cheap (except for disk drive upgrades), very fast, and their on-site, same-day service is excellent.

Not always just about margins (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380714)

I don't know about Dell or anything precisely along the lines of what you describe, but there *is* more to server design than 'does it fit in the socket'. If the components chosen for a 1U skimped on cooling to a certain TDP and the Magny Cours exceeds that, then they may not have enough room around the socket to accommodate a heatsink that can dissipate the heat given the flow rate.

In terms of 'custom' unclear to what extent they are talking about board components (which have been increasingly sparse in the tier one vendors) or mechanical issues. In either case, the truth is when you are building entire datacenters and promise a vendor a run of tens of thousands of servers, you can get what you want. Most of the market isn't doing things that cleanly, and that's the market that is front and center in the Dell/HP/IBM offerings that you see on their respective websites. In the long haul, engineering everything from CRAC to network switch, to rack, to board, to chips is going to give you the best/most efficient approach, *but* it involves a large expense in a single shot, *can* get you stuck in a difficult situation if the state of hardware changes in 2 years.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380766)

Yeah, all these 'steps' are very expensive. If you want A, you're forced to buy B. I do OK building custom 'whitebox' machines for clients. If they worry about depot service, I point out that they can buy two of mine for less than one of theirs, configured in a hot/hot or hot/cold setup. My boxes do better on energy consumption too.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381498)

I'm sure that your white boxes are fine but let's be serious for a moment.

Do your white boxes support 2 or four sockets? Hot pluggable?
How much memory will it hold 64GB or more? Hot pluggable?
What about the power supplies, do yours have n+1? Hot pluggable?
How about drives, 15K RPM SAS? Hot pluggable?
What about battery backed up RAID controllers to support those drives, do yours provide the most possible bandwidth?
Quad gigabit NICs onboard with TCP off loading?
What about lights out remote management, you have? Can I power the server on and off, view and access the BIOS setup screen all remotely?
I don't have space to store redundant versions of your whitebox. Can you not provide 24X7 depot service with a 4 hour response time?
What about a OS and application support? Can you and will you provide support for MS SQL running less than optimum I/O performance due to a minor bug in a RAID driver?

Like I said, I'm sure your white boxes are quite nice but, there is a meaningful difference between what HP and Dell are selling and what you are selling. There's a lot more to a real server than most people think or remember. Sure Google does their own thing but most shops aren't ever going to be anything at all like Google are they.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382134)

The answer to all of that is yes, IPMI is found in most whitebox server manufacturers and is actually standardized to the point where a Tyan motherboard and a Supermicro can be managed in the same ways. Compare that to the fact that iLO2 is different on the 100 series versus the 300 series Proliants and you develop a lot of frustration fast. It's nice to see I'm not the only shop that's been going whitebox lately.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

Glendale2x (210533) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382610)

The only thing I've not been keen on about the Supermicro IPMI is that it's way more quirky and unpolished compared to iLO2/3 (I've only used the 300 series servers). I also have issues with the former locking up and failing to respond to IPMI commands after a while which requires logging in to the web interface and clicking the reset button. Of course, the price point is impossible to beat with Supermicro, and the expensive HP iLO advanced licensing is usually a deal killer.

The mac pro in sever use fails at a lot of that (1)

Joe_Dragon (2206452) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382238)

The mac pro in sever use fails at a lot of that,.

Re:The mac pro in sever use fails at a lot of that (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386128)

The Mac Pro isn't a server.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (2)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381996)

If you want 12 core Opterons you are automatically required to get a 2U machine from dell. It does not matter than the 1U machines could use those parts, they do this to improve their margins.

Identically configured 1U and 2U machines cost essentially the same anyway (or at least they did the last time I priced them out - been nothing but blades for a while now).

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

hackertourist (2202674) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385622)

Does that include the rack space rent?

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

drsmithy (35869) | more than 2 years ago | (#37387090)

Does that include the rack space rent?

Generally speaking, you run out of power (/cooling) long before you run out of rack space.

Very few places will let you put 42 1U servers in a single rack.

Sounds like they took a cue from the car makers (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385312)

You want better tires, transmission and no speed limiter? You have to buy the package with the huge wasteful engine too. You want the sports suspension, low-profile tires and higher-tuned engine? You need the sports package with the automatic transmission (I kid you not).

Re:Sounds like they took a cue from the car makers (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386152)

sport package with automatic transmission? What idiotic car company are you speaking of?

Not that it is any way a sports car...but I had to buy the Camry SE (Sport Edition) to even be able to get a clutch. Clutch nowadays is a sporty feature, and rather hard to get (in the US at least...maybe you are UK?)

Re:Sounds like they took a cue from the car makers (1)

Quila (201335) | more than 2 years ago | (#37387210)

sport package with automatic transmission? What idiotic car company are you speaking of?

Mid 90s Dodge Avenger, the V6 had to be ordered with the automatic transmission. The sports package, with the bigger rims, performance tires and aerodynamics, dictated the V6 engine, and thus the automatic transmission. Needless to say, I passed on that car.

Re:HP and Dell do this to themselves (1)

Trogre (513942) | more than 2 years ago | (#37393188)

...or just build your own like I did. There's no shortage of decent G34 motherboards.

2-cpu (24-core) systems can be made up pretty easily provided you can afford the CPUs in the first place.

super micro (1)

roman_mir (125474) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380746)

I tried these guys [supermicro.com] (just noticed they switched from com to nl, interesting, wtf?

They are not as refined as the big ones, but they provide bang for the buck.

Re:super micro (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381052)

The big companies use supermicro too..

Re:super micro (1)

Lennie (16154) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381232)

The site does not redirect to the nl site in the US, just the Netherlands (where I am) or the whole of Europe I guess.

It is probably using a GeoIP or whatever database.

SSD Prices (3)

zbobet2012 (1025836) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380762)

HP and Dell are also killing themselves on SSD prices as datacenters move to these for there increased reliability and performance. HP and Dell are both anywhere from 10 to 20x the prices of other parties.

Also TFA is about datacenter servers, which always come with either get re-imaged by large customers to whatever there operational image is. Almost none of the people listed here would deploy on OS that "ships" with the box, so all the bloatware complaints are idiotic.

Re:SSD Prices (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380828)

Yep, we just had to re-image a brand new server back to 2003 because the client's ERM software wouldn't run on 2008. Surprised us, but that's what legacy software will get you.

Re:SSD Prices (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382158)

You should be careful using a term like idiotic, especially when you don't know what bloatware is being referred to. In the case of HP it's things like iLO2 which vary greatly from model to model while Supermicro and Tyan both use IPMI giving me a standardized remote KVM solution that actually works in multiple browsers. HP System Management tools are a complete joke as well, no big deal as I use Nagios to monitor my servers and SCCM for patch management.

Another benefit of going whitebox for was my ability to get servers sooner. To get 12 core Opteron servers I'd have to wait two weeks for HP while I can have it the next day with Supermicro. There's also the reality that I don't know what I'm getting when I buy an HP, sure it says it supports RAID 5 or 6 but that's Windows only and is software RAID prone to problems. On the Supermicro I know what included and just buy a 3ware or Adaptec controller when I need RAID functionality beyond a simple mirror.

Re:SSD Prices (1)

bored (40072) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382708)

I buy an HP, sure it says it supports RAID 5 or 6 but that's Windows only and is software RAID prone to problems.

I guess it must be the MBA's, but the arrogance at HP really started to piss me off a few years ago.

First it was the removal of 3.5" bays from their machines, because after all none of their customers want to put high capacity low cost drives in the machines. Instead we all want to buy 10x as many 2.5" drives at 20x the cost.

Then it was their refusal to even send out system diagrams of the CPU->chipset->bus configurations. Something that can be reverse engineered in about 1/4 hour with a copy of lspci, and looking at the motherboard.

Then there are the outrageous licensing costs for things like "advanced ILO"

Or maybe even the total shit they sell people like the HP smart arrays (aka CCISS) that quite literally are slower with $10k of drives packed into them than a basic desktop SATA drive running standalone.

Re:SSD Prices (1)

Vancorps (746090) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383592)

I've found with their smart arrays you just have to be careful which ones you buy. Of course after being burned a few times I just left HP alltogether, I haven't bought an HP in two years because even the Proliant networking crap started requiring extra licensing. Unfortunately the 3com crap is screwing with their stellar switch business. It sucks, I ordered an HP switch and received a 3com with a different OS and set of capabilities that don't even work with my existing HP tech.

I'd HP is trying to commit corporate suicide, not sure why since their switch business was incredible profitable. On the server side Supermicro is eating their lunch as basic things like the ability to add a third party video card give me the ability to make cheap HD video capture servers and IPTV boxes while HP at the same time made it a option that of course costs more.

It's good to see that I wasn't alone in seeing all this with HP. I still think I'm crazy but at least I'm not alone.

Re:SSD Prices (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37383268)

software RAID prone to problems.

All RAID is software RAID. You either run it on your main CPU or a less powerful CPU on an extension card. The software for the main CPU is much easier to update and if you're smart, you get the source code to it. The only advantage of RAID on a card is the BBU.

Not surprised (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380812)

IBM, HP, Dell, etc have quit innovating LONG ago. Now, they are busy either shifting operations offshore to make up for horrible management, or they simply sell the unit (again to make up for horrible management, marketing, sales, etc).

Re:Not surprised (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | more than 2 years ago | (#37380916)

The best servers unfortunately are the Oracle ones. Now they are waaayyyy too expensive with Oracle contracts for Oracle Database whether you need it or not. When Sun owned them you could upgrade the ram WHILE THE MACHINE WAS ON. Totally redundant and hot swapable. PC servers just do not compare.

Since blades are being used now no one cares anymore I guess

Re:Not surprised (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381084)

You can do this with HP server that run Linux. This was a new feature a couple years ago when I worked in a large datacenter.

Re:Not surprised (1)

guruevi (827432) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381290)

For the $15,000 it costs for one of those machines (they are nice and well worth the price if you need those features), you can easily buy 5-10 of the white box servers and a couple of VMWare licenses to shift around the VM's while they are running. The techniques used in the Sun (Oracle) machines were/are nice if you need big iron-style stuff like the financial sector but for most other applications they are outdone these days by smarter software.

Re:Not surprised (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385782)

You may want to re-price those VMWare licenses - they just revised the terms. I don't think you can implement VMWare on 5 boxes for $10K, ignoring the cost of the underlying hardware...

Re:Not surprised (1)

Coren22 (1625475) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386676)

High end Dell servers can hotswap memory, daughter boards, hard drives, power supplies, fans. I don't think anyone can hotswap CPUs though, but I could be wrong. Dell even offers RAID 1 memory, though I can't imagine why you would do that.

Re:Not surprised (1)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382304)

And another ex-Dell employee heard from.

Current workplace... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37380822)

We're buying large quantities of SuperMicro blade servers. Pretty minimal, but just right for our high density stuff.

Only "advanced stuff" is good PCI-X riser for a SAS card and good IPMI, plus 4 blades in a 2U chassis...

I predict... (1)

RMH101 (636144) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381634)

Next generation of Windows server running on small, cheap, low power, ARM, system-on-chip servers. Cheap, commodity stuff. Parallel to MS starting to use this to supply their hosted Azure services, I can see private cloud in enterprise running on much the same sort of thing. Stateless machines, much like Azure. It won't suit everybody, but I bet this is the way it's going to go. Why burn power on Intel machines when you can save heat, power and space with SoC stuff?
This is a guess only, but I think it'd make sense for MS...

Re:I predict... (1)

kenh (9056) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385862)

The magic of extremely low cost, low-power CPUs is starting to wane - a couple years ago most server were underutilized, then there were two approaches to 'correcting' that problem: a) lower-cost, lower-power servers (Atom, ARM, other) and b) virtualization (VMWare, Hyper-V, Xen, KVM, etc). I would argue at the corporate level that virtualization is winning out, and low-powered servers are finding use in one-off installations (home servers, workgroup appliances, and the like).

SGI/Rackable Atom-based deskside supercomputer aside, when all costs are considered, a multi-core server still makes a lot of sense.

fp (3ick (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37381686)

be any fucking another troubled brain. It is the Obseesed - give bloc in order to is busy infighting NOTWITHSTANDING,

Hardware sources (1)

dave562 (969951) | more than 2 years ago | (#37381708)

Where do these vendors source their hardware from? Do they go straight to Taiwan with specs in hand and have a production run of boards done? What happens when they need spares? Do they just buy a whole slew of spares and then when those run out, move onto the next design?

What happens with industry wide problems, like with what Intel experienced with the SandyBridge CPUs? I ran into some weird issues where a couple of my Dell blades were not seeing all of the RAM. They had a firmware fix available for it. What happens in similar situations with these custom built solutions where companies like Google are designing their own boards, and presumably do not have as much leverage with the BIOS developers.

Re:Hardware sources (1)

pulsewidth (2070) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383010)

http://opencompute.org

Re:Hardware sources (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383566)

Where do these vendors source their hardware from? Do they go straight to Taiwan with specs in hand and have a production run of boards done?

Yep. Google goes to Gigabyte with specs and they start up the assembly line. They're constantly buying more, so "spares" aren't an issue. And when you have a "cloud" environment (we used-to just call them clusters) you don't need identical replacements... Use the same SAS/SATA chipset, and otherwise completely update the design (every few months) and drop it in to replace an old one that failed, no problem.

What happens with industry wide problems, like with what Intel experienced with the SandyBridge CPUs? I ran into some weird issues where a couple of my Dell blades were not seeing all of the RAM.

You can bet that corporations deploying millions of servers exhaustively test their prototypes before going full-scale, and anything not showing-up in their testing is a non-issue. Remember that each design is fixed, one-off, so it doesn't matter that X won't work with some add-in card, or memory of different timings, or whatever. They've already tested it with EXACTLY the components they will use.

with these custom built solutions where companies like Google are designing their own boards, and presumably do not have as much leverage with the BIOS developers.

Google is bigger than you think. In essence, they write their own BIOS, anyhow. Sgabios is a Google invention, and add-on to coreboot (formely Linuxbios). It is well within google's comptency to modify the firmware in their server boards to fix/workaround bugs and issues, though I expect that's rarely if ever necessary, as Linux handles it all once the boatloader hands off to the kernel.

onion on my belt (1)

bhcompy (1877290) | more than 2 years ago | (#37382506)

Back in my day, if you wanted a special server at a datacenter you built your own. Still have a dual 550 xeon sitting around here somewhere in a 2U case that I built many moons ago. It's not an unheard of concept.

Cool stuff (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37383428)

Standard off-the-shelf datacenter hardware sucks.

Facebook had a rack from their Prineville datacenter on display at OSCON. It was beautiful. The rack is actually three racks wide, and holds 90 servers total. Each server is about 1.5U high, and it's basically a motherboard, PSU and hard drives in a sliding aluminum tray. There are no front or back panels and no top covers, because none of that makes sense in a secure climate-controlled datacenter with filtered air. The DIMM slots are oriented front to back so they don't block airflow. No video cards, because you shouldn't need video on a server. There's a little release button that locks into place when you slide the tray into the rack. Simple, easy, cheap, effective.

Except, of course, that it's not actually cheap yet - Facebook's racks cost significantly more than standard racks, since they can't be produced in large quantities yet, but they make up for it with reduced operational costs. I hope they standardize and commercialize the design, because the first thing I thought of when I saw it was, "when can I buy one?"

Demented article (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383432)

I just got back from the datacenter, building out new racks of servers, spec'ing out more servers for future expansion, etc. If anyone should be able to understand the story, I should... but I don't. The reporter clearly doesn't understand the topic, so the story becomes completely demented. They're using completely unrelated issues, and even opposing reasoning, to paint a picture of an emerging trend.

Let's shed some light on this murky discussion:

      âoePeople want to be able to build it their way,â

No! No they don't. What people want is for servers to be less expensive. Cutting out unnecessary and redundant components is simply one way to get there, without losing anything.

Dell/Hp, why do I need VGA output on my server, along with serial ports, along with a BMC (IPMI - serial-over-lan), along with an add-in OoBM card (DRAC/iLO) that does KVM? Hell, why not video-output to the two-line LCD on the front, let's do that too!

Now, none of these are bad things per-se, until you consider the added hassle. If your server doesn't have VGA out, you can count on video ALWAYS going over the serial port, come hell or high water. But when your Dell/HP COTS server decides to suddenly STOP doing serial port redirection, now that VGA output you didn't want, becomes necessary, and you have to have something wrapped around it (ie. IP-KVM).

Those OoBM cards sound great, until you find 2% have some screwed-up setting somewhere, somehow, and aren't responding... Again, you've got to have some fallback to something else.

Okay, this quickly turned into an off-topic rant, so I digress...

Google didn't build their own servers because they wanted a special RAID controller... they did it because they want CHEAP. Facebook didn't build their own servers because they want DVI instead of VGA video connectors, they did it because they want CHEAP.

There are some other added benefits to custom servers. See my rant above about OoBM, or see Google's 12V batteries. But do you think Google would object if Dell sold them the servers they wanted, except with a few extra GigE ports built-in? Hell no! It's not "I don't want X", it's "I don't need X and don't want to pay a premium to get a server with it."

If somebody would productize Google's servers, maybe adding just a FEW features so it would meet the needs of a larger customer base, and sell it nice a cheap, this "custom server" craze would be over, as the COTS version would become cheaper still. Dell/HP hanging-on to that highest-common-denomination server design, with expensive features rarely needed, and big fat margins, is driving companies to look elsewhere, and elsewhere , right now, just happens to be custom designed. Yet even with the extras on Dell/HP servers, they could still pull customers back, if they'd just drive prices down on their existing servers, until a custom product run is more expensive.

  The only question is, if Dell and HP don't want to provide these cheaper servers so many companies want, who will? I don't believe it will continue to be in-house for long, but who will jump in and serve this un-served market segment? Cutting margins is how Dell became so big, who will be the next upstart to come along and out-do them at their own game?

Problem is not hardware (mostly) (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385034)

For the likes of Dell/HP/IBM, these scenarios present a problem. These datacenters architect their solution so that the manageability and service is no big deal. A system fails and it's going to be 3 weeks before you can get a replacement in? Fine. Can't get a replacement anymore because that model is done, upgrade it to something 'close enough'. Much of Dell/HP/IBM cost compared to, say, Supermicro is in maintaining stockpiles of replacement parts, keeping them distributed across the globe, paying for expedited shipping, and employing technicians to dispatch to customer sites.

So they cut cost on some offering by exempting it from this. Suddenly, a customer who wants "tier one quality" jumps on the system due to price. Then they realize there is no longer any particular difference, and they can then go off about how that vendor is nothing like they used to be.

Of course, hardware can factor into this as well, and the major players do something about this. In the not-to-distant past, there was an intel first-party server. You could buy it form Dell, HP, or IBM. The only difference was what logo Intel's BIOS showed you and the logo on the cheap removable bezel. This is them responding to the thought. This is the same platform popularized for these cheapo deployments, and so the tier-ones embraced it. The problem is for anyone who cares about reliability, serviceability, or management, the board was utter shit. As a result, "tier one" value eroded.

Basically, the 'tier ones' have to be careful playing this game. If they do this, they should probably establish new brands to slap on, like automotive companies do. This is asinine, but human psychology seeks simplicity and this is the only way to get there it seems.

Re:Demented article (1)

MoreDruid (584251) | more than 2 years ago | (#37386376)

You're forgetting someting: both Google and Facebook accept a certain percentage of that hardware to break, and leave it broken until the next maintenance window. They make up for it in numbers and handle the redundancy/high availability in software/OS. They also accept that common hardware is "good enough" and achieve performance through higher volumes. They are also big enough to have a custom server built (design PCB, test, build etc.). Most companies aren't big enough to justify a complete custom design. Even the article only gives 3 examples (Google, Facebook & MS). In a traditional server model you want ultimate performance (which is what a server chipset gives you) and high MTBF and a high service level (i.e. 4hr response time with parts on site). That's what HP, Dell & IBM are selling and asking a premium for.

Re:Demented article (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 2 years ago | (#37388466)

It is easy to handle a certain percentage of your servers failing when you can buy 3 servers at the price of 1 fully redundant one. At least when you have smart people administating them that won't cut short term costs at the expense of long term ones.

The only important variable here is how you storage and service the extra servers. If those are expensive enough, you'd better acquiring some mainframes...

Re:Demented article (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 2 years ago | (#37390752)

both Google and Facebook accept a certain percentage of that hardware to break, and leave it broken until the next maintenance window. They make up for it in numbers and handle the redundancy/high availability in software/OS.

I didn't forget that at all... That is the very x86 business model that Dell and HP are serving to begin with. If you need high availability, you don't depend on a single system being up all the time. If that's your business model, then you want a mainframe, NonStop server, or similar.

Most companies aren't big enough to justify a complete custom design. Even the article only gives 3 examples (Google, Facebook & MS).

No they aren't, hence my dual points that 1) They don't really want a "custom" design, just a cheaper one than Dell/HP offers. And 2) Anybody that steps in to offer such a cheap server will make big money, and will appeal to a huge number of companies who have clusters, but aren't big enough to get a custom design up to the economies of scale.

Why bother with PCI slots at all? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 2 years ago | (#37383444)

I'd love to convert my x86 based farm into servers that don't have any expansion slots, but have a pair of 10GbE LOM (LAN On Motherboard). I don't need internal disk, just CPU and RAM. I currently boot from SAN, but if I can get rid of the PCI slots, then I can boot from FCoE instead. All my disk is concentrated in the disk arrays, so I don't have to deal with disk in the servers and I can get away from remove the power inefficient HBAs. Now if my LAN and storage admins could stop fighting over "Who gets to upgrade the FCOE switch", I might actually get headache over with.

Re:Why bother with PCI slots at all? (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 2 years ago | (#37385054)

Because you want 10Gbe, but maybe you want Qlogic ethernet chips, but another guy wants broadcom, and another guy wants Emulex, and yet another guy wants Intel, and maybe half the people don't even want 10Gbe, and 10Gbe chips are still *expensive*.

facebook, google ... who cares? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#37383778)

i think there are roughly spoken 2 types of server buyers ...

1. companies without the necessary staff to "roll your own" hardware-crap:

they want 3 or 5 years on-site warranties, support and wizards for their overloaded and/or badly educated staff.

and it really does not matter for them if a server systems costs 7000 or 9000 us$/euro/whatever ... just no outage/(hardware) failures, please!!

what's the real cost of a fairly good system technician? 100 us$ per hour? do the math and calculate the hours per year for a 5 years life-cycle of server systems if you save lets say 2000 us$ on the purchase price and "shit happens"...

2. facebook, google and other big companies who do not need the extended warranties etc. from the server vendor

now try to estimate who operates more servers on this world ... not per company, but seen as a whole...

3. nobody ever got fired for choosing ibm!!

lets think about the overloaded/undereducated staff at an average small company ... then i think this old mantra is still valid :)

cheers
v.

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