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3rd June
written by admin

ssdsWith large firms expected to reduce their server populations by three per cent annually through 2001, replacing smaller boxes with super-size boxes in a move towards consolidation, the resulting increase in server spending will be a boon for vendors, say analysts.

“The biggest trend we see coming is that servers are going to get a lot bigger,” notes Carl Howe, research analyst at Forrester Research Inc. of Cambridge, Mass. “People are finding that managing one box is a lot easier than managing 100.”

In its August 1999 report, The New Server Landscape, Forrester predicts globally that 2,500 companies will spend 13 per cent more each year, replacing small servers with larger ones the likes of 64-way boxes from Sun Microsystems Inc. According to Howe, that translates to US$18,500 per server by 2001 compared to the $14,000 per server that’s spent today.

Framingham, Mass.-based International Data Corp. (IDC) also predicts huge growth in the worldwide server market. Its Server Market Review and Forecast (1998-2003) estimates customer revenues will grow from US$65 billion in 1998 to $88.8 billion in 2003. Factors driving this increase include server consolidation and the emergence of appliance servers, which it sees as replacing general-purpose servers at the low end of the market.

In Forrester’s report, 70 per cent of respondents indicated their firms had already undertaken a server consolidation project, while an additional 20 per cent are expected to join in over the next two years.

Vernon Turner, vice-president of IDC’s Worldwide Commercial Systems and Servers research program, sees two key driving factors behind server consolidation. Just back from a vendor-sponsored road trip, Turner acknowledges that most in the industry believe server consolidation has to happen in one form or another.

“A lot of responsibility has moved back into the IT department and IT is saying, ‘If you want to bring this stuff back, I don’t have the real estate or the manpower – I need to consolidate to manage more effectively,’” says Turner.

The second reason for consolidation, he adds, is that hardware prices are now at a point where the actual “power per dollar” is sufficient to run several applications on one server. “People are tending to buy larger, more reliable, more function-rich servers that can run multiple applications or workloads,” he says.

As director of IT and new media at Toronto-based YTV Canada Inc., a national cable network for children’s programming, Steve Rolufs is aware of the server consolidation trend. The most notable difference, he says, is that IT departments no longer split functions over several different servers (for example, an application server with server-side components, an SQL server or an HTML server), but are now starting to put all functions on one box or a cluster of boxes. At YTV, servers are being consolidated in what Rolufs refers to as a server farm, using load balancing technology.

Forrester encourages companies to treat such centralized servers as “co-operatives managed by IT, but funded by the business units.” The argument is that users and management will balk at server consolidation if it threatens to decrease application choice or reduce flexibility. By viewing IT as a service organization and giving department heads a sense of ownership, IT departments will begin to be viewed as general contractors to their peers.

Rolufs points to the significance of operating systems as another area that’s changing in the new server landscape. “While people are still passionate at the desktop level about their operating system, what’s delivering at the back end is transparent and is becoming more and more so,” he says.

Using a religious term he coined himself, IDC’s Turner adds that by 2001, he expects users will be “operating system agnostic. At the end of the day you won’t really care whether you’re running NT, Unix or Linux. And as a server vendor, you’d better be able to run all of those.”

IDC expects Microsoft Windows NT to expand its share of the worldwide server market from 13.8 per cent in 1998 to 30 per cent in 2003, representing US$26.9 billion in end-user spending. Meanwhile, Unix servers will maintain their leadership position, capturing $37 billion in end-user spending by 2003.

Turner maintains that Linux, although showing some promise, is not yet ready for prime time. In fact, IDC predicts the initial impact to occur in non-commercial markets, “mainly among home users of PCs rather than business users of a server.”

Forrester, on the other hand, pits Linux as a key challenger to Sun Microsystems’ Solaris as a dominant operating system for super-sized servers. According to Forrester’s report, vendors will embed Linux into appliances where users never see it and, using Linux interoperability hooks in traditional Unix operating systems, independent software vendors will tend to write for Linux first and port elsewhere later.

At YTV, Rolufs is keeping his eye on Linux developments. While his area is primarily a Windows NT shop, he does see a fit in specific niche areas where NT is lacking. For example, where NT is weaker in providing FTP or DNS services – services that essentially grew up in the Unix world and are more mature on Linux and Unix platforms – he sees a strong possibility of dropping a Linux box onto his network to handle them.

“I’m keeping my eye on it (Linux),” he says. “When I start to see some big players releasing hardware and software support, then we may take a more serious look.”

At the low end of the server market, the emergence of appliance servers – plug-and-play, single-purpose servers – is expected to have “cannibalistic tendencies,” at first, predicts IDC. “Only two years after their debut, appliance servers are taking the server market by storm and threatening the space of multipurpose servers,” reports a September 1999 IDC bulletin.

The research firm predicts more than two million units will ship by 2003, generating revenues close to US$8 billion. Small offices, home offices, medium-sized businesses and Internet service providers are expected to opt for appliance servers as a replacement for low-end general-purpose servers.

23rd May
written by admin

ntswiIsps and corporate it managers with large budgets, large volumes of Internet transactions and a need for easily administered DNS should consider investing in DNS One, a plug-and-play Domain Name System server from InfoBlox Inc.

In businesses that want to have an Internet presence, the need for simplified configuration and management tools for complex and tedious tasks such as DNS management is on the rise. Info Blox’s DNS One, which started shipping last month, is a highly manageable dedicated appliance with an easily navigable Web-based GUI that eliminates the need for highly skilled IT personnel dedicated to routine DNS management.

Although the appliance is a secure DNS server, it does not provide tools to detect intrusions and security breaches, nor can remote access to the system be disabled. In future releases, the company should provide an option to disable remote access or find ways to further regulate remote access because that is the least secure point in the system.

UltraDNS Corp.’s UltraDNS, a managed DNS service, is a better choice than DNS One for companies with larger DNS record entries, bigger ISPs (Internet service providers), and online financial transaction systems that also require fast propagation of DNS changes and greater security along with the basic DNS management functions provided by DNS One.

In addition, UltraDNS, unlike DNS One, provides DNS resolution powered by a global network of Oracle Corp.’s database servers. The vendor of this service, located in San Ramon, Calif., can be reached at

Upgrades at your fingertips

In eWEEK labs’ tests of dns one, which costs a hefty $22,000 for a maximum of 1,000 nodes, we f ound it easy to deploy and configure. The one- button automatic upgrade capability of the unit should be useful because it gives purchasers access to the latest and most secure version of Bind, the DNS implementation DNS One uses.

The system operated seamlessly in both Windows NT and Unix environments in tests and did not require on-site configuration. However, lack of a user interface to the product’s internal operating system leaves administrators without tools such as message digests (MD5 checksums) to detect data tampering or other database problems.

We performed a real-time zone transfer with another Internet DNS server and found the process fairly simple, but we needed to log off the DNS One box and launch Netscape Communications Corp.’s Navigator Web browser instead of Microsoft Corp.’s Internet Explorer to view the updated network management console, a bug the company is working to eliminate.

The major differences between Cisco Systems Inc.’s Network Registrar, Lucent Technologies Inc.’s QIP, Nortel Networks Corp.’s NetID and Info Blox’s DNS One is that DNS One is a dedicated appliance, whereas the others are software-only server-based products. Only DNS One provides a Web-based GUI and an automatic upgrade function. The freely available Bind provides no GUI-based administration tools or upgrade functions.

In tests, we found the commit- changes function useful because it checks for mistakes such as assigning IP addresses to hosts that are outside a company’s designated address scheme.

The commit-changes function lists all planned changes until they are made, but individual changes cannot be canceled-the user must cancel all the changes and start over if any one of the listed changes is not wanted. The ability to roll back individual changes will be in the next release, company officials said. The utilities also include an IP calculator and good user administration tools.

The user administration tools let administrators easily grant or deny users access to the DNS server. These tools are basic, however, and don’t include options such as forcing users to change passwords periodically or giving them the option of changing the password when they first log in.

In case of a hardware problem, the company will ship a replacement unit through its built-in Phone Home3 function, and system administrators are notified of the problem via e-mail.

The unit has redundant power supplies and hard drives, but none of the parts are accessible because they are in an entry-deterrent riveted case.

The small size of IBM’s eServer xSeries 330 gives IT managers the ability to pack a good deal of processing power into space-restricted environments like Web-hosting and ISP sites. The IBM server’s excellent management capabilities will also ease the administration of Web server farms.

Short-term Business Impact:All current DNS records can be consolidated to one DNS server in a fairly short time and the results graphically displayed for planning and record-keeping purposes.

Long-term Business Impact:The DNS One’s GUI tools will facilitate training new staff, and the system’s self-monitoring tools and e-mail notification to system administrators will prevent total system failures.

Pros: Fast and easy deployment; useful DNS record zone transfer features; good network, system and user administration tools, auto- upgrade feature and e-mail notification of system faults.

Cons: No internal operating system tools to detect intrusions or data tampering; expensive; no ability to disable remote access; no ability to selectively roll back planned changes.

11th May
written by admin

raidMost small businesses have fairly tight budgets, however, and one of the biggest issues with buying a server has been cost. Spending $6,000 to $10,000 on a server is sometimes impossible.

Enter the low-cost server. Today, some vendors sell reliable servers at irresistible price points.

Smart Choices

If you decide to take the server plunge, it’s important to plan the right configuration to ensure that your mission-critical server stays up and running. Redundancy features can help in this regard.

A common redundancy method is a Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks (RAID). Servers can implement several levels of hardware RAID, which vary in both cost as well as level of protection. A small office or workgroup should use at least RAID Level 1 (disk mirroring). RAID Level 1 simultaneously writes data to two separate hard drives, so if one drive crashes, the other takes over. RAID Level 5 offers even more protection by writing a parity bit across all the drives in an array: If a hard drive crashes, you replace the failed drive and can automatically restore your data without resorting to tape backup. RAID 5, however, requires a minimum of three hard drives, so it’s more expensive to implement. All the servers reviewed in this roundup offer optional hardware RAID support.

Hot-pluggable hard drives are also worth considering. If a hot- pluggable drive fails, you can exchange the drive with a new one without powering down the server, thereby increasing uptime and server availability.

Note, however, that vendors often reduce the cost of servers by using hard drives that aren’t hot-pluggable. Two of the three servers in this roundup came with hot-pluggable drives in their tested configurations.

You should also consider purchasing a uninterruptible power supply (UPS). Think of a UPS as a large battery that provides power- conditioning services to your server. It sits between the server and the power outlet, absorbing any power spikes or surges. If there is a power outage, the UPS battery takes charge, gracefully powering down the server after a specified interval.

Manageability is another important consideration. It’s useful to be able to manage your server remotely and be alerted if any problems occur so you can quickly and effectively address them. You want to be able to monitor the status of your hard drives, system fans, memory, and CPU. All the servers tested here bundle management software in their base configuration.

In this roundup, we tested three entry-level workgroup servers: the Gateway ALR-7200NTS, the HP NetServer E60, and the Quantex QX5000. We tested the servers in a traditional file-and-print environment using ZD NetBench 6.0. (Please refer to the “How We Tested” sidebar for more detail.)

How We Tested

We tested each server using ZD NetBench 6.0. We ran the NetBench tests on an isolated 60-node network made up of 12 Dell OptiPlex GX1 233MHz Pentium II PCs, 32 Dell Dimension XPS 200MHz Pentium Pro PCs, and 16 Dell Dimension XPS 166MHz Pentium machines, all with 32MB of RAM and running Windows 98.

Each server tested came configured with 256MB of RAM, four 9GB hard drives striped using hardware RAID Level 5, a hardware RAID controller, two 10/100 network controllers, and Windows NT Server 4.0 with Service Pack 5 installed.

NetBench accurately depicts the performance of a server in a workgroup file and print environment. The test measures how well a file server handles I/O requests from network clients that continually hit the server with requests for network file operations. As the test proceeds, the throughput increases along with the number of clients until the server’s I/O bandwidth saturates. Each client records the number of bytes it moves to and from the server during a test and how long it takes to move them. At the saturation point, interacting with more clients increases the system overhead, resulting in a decline in total throughput.

When the test ends, the client divides the number of bytes by the number of seconds. The resulting score is the throughput for that client. NetBench collects the client throughput scores, adds them, and displays the bytes-per-second total as the overall server throughput score.

22nd April
written by admin

ts330Ibm’s new eServer xSeries 330 packs ample processing power in an ultraslim form factor combined with solid performance and manageability, giving IT managers a good buy that can provide Web hosting and e-commerce applications at ISPs and co-locations where rack space is at a premium.

Shipping since last month with a starting price of $4,426, the xSeries 330 server delivers the most computing power per square foot that eWeek Labs has seen, standing only 1.75 inches high-small enough that 42 of them can fit in a standard rack-and powered by two of the latest Pentium III processors.

The fully loaded xSeries 330 configuration that we tested is priced at $9,680 and included two 866MHz Pentium III processors, 1GB of 133MHz synchronous dynamic RAM, two Ultra160 SCSI drives, an IBM Netfinity Gigabit NIC and a ServeRAID 4L Ultra160 controller (which is optional) to support additional external storage.

A member of IBM’s eServer line of e-business servers, the xSeries 330 comes with either 800MHz or 866MHz processors and uses the ServerWorks LE30 chip set to support two-way SMP. The system will be available with 933MHz and 1GHz processors by the end of this month, IBM officials said.

Particulars of performance

the xseries 330 fared well in performance tests using Ziff Davis Media Inc.’s WebBench 3.0 benchmark, which measures server response time to requests from Web-browsing clients.

Using a test suite that simulates 80 percent static content and 20 percent dynamic content generated with ISAPI (Internet Standard API), the xSeries 330 processed 4,929 requests per second running within the core Microsoft Corp. IIS (Internet Information Server) process, but the server handled only 2,043 requests per second when the ISAPI application was running out of process.

This performance disparity is due to the processor overhead associated with running the Web applications as separate processes. We tested the IBM server with the ISAPI application running in process to see how fast the system could go, but the out-of-process performance-which is still impressive-is more typical of how the server will perform in actual use. Web applications like ISAPI and ASP (Active Server Pages) are usually not run within the core ISS process because, if they crashed, the Web server process would crash as well.

We compared the xSeries 330′s performance with that of a Dell Com puter Corp. PowerEdge 2450 rack-mounted server with two 733MHz Pentium IIIs, 1GB of RAM and a Giga bit NIC, another good choice for ISPs (Internet service providers).

Although the xSeries 330 outperformed the Dell system with the applications running both in and out of process because it uses more powerful processors, the tests indicate that, in the real world, where Web server reliability is important and ISAPI and ASP Web applications would likely run as isolated processes, the performance gain from faster processors is likely to drop off significantly.

The scalability of the xSeries 330 server is somewhat limited by its small size. Internal storage is limited to two 1-inch hard drives, and there are only four direct in-line memory module slots for mem ory. IT managers should take advantage of the KVM (keyboard video mouse) control and management capabilities of the xSeries 330 (discussed later) and scale up by adding more servers rather than by upgrading a single server.

Although the xSeries 330 has redundant error-correcting-code ChipKill memory and hot-plug hard drives, it lacks a redundant power supply and hot-swappable fans. Sites where high availability is important should have spare servers preconfigured to exchange with failed servers.

The xSeries 330 servers can be daisy-chained in a rack with IBM’s Console Chaining Technology. Using a single KVM cable per server and embedded KVM ports, administrators can control a full rack of 42 xSeries 330 servers from a single keyboard, monitor and mouse. This greatly eases managing and servicing server farms and saves companies the cost of third-party KVM switches and cables.

The xSeries 330′s solid management features include an integrated system management processor, Light-path Diagnostics and the Netfinity Director management software found in IBM’s Netfinity servers.

The integrated system management processor on the motherboard provides server diagnostics and remote reboots while monitoring server parameters such as temperature and voltage.

Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be contacted at

Handles Web apps swiftly

The IBM eServer xSeries 330 server performed well on WebBench 3.0, but performance dropped off significantly with the ISAPI application running as a separate process.

eWEEK labs // executive summary: eServer xSeries 330

The small size of IBM’s eServer xSeries 330 gives IT managers the ability to pack a good deal of processing power into space-restricted environments like Web-hosting and ISP sites. The IBM server’s excellent management capabilities will also ease the administration of Web server farms.

Short-term Business Impact:The xSeries 330′s KVM control and management capabilities and its use of Console Chaining Technology will simplify the initial rollout of these servers.

Long-term Business Impact:The small size of the xSeries 330 somewhat limits its scalability, so IT managers will have to invest in more of these servers when they need to scale up to handle more Web applications down the road.

Pros: Small form factor; solid performance; built-in KVM capabilities; strong management features.

Cons: Limited scalability; limited internal storage; lacks redundant power supplies and hot-swappable fans.

26th March
written by admin

ddmgMicron PC Inc.’s new NetFrame 4400R takes miniaturization of rack-mount servers to the extreme, providing IT with unbelievable CPU density for data center racks.

IT managers should be warned, however, that Micron had to give up redundancy of hardware components to make the NetFrame 4400R so sleek and compact, a trade-off that increases the chance of downtime-a definite no-no in the enterprise space.

Although we usually hate servers without redundancy, the NetFrame 4400R is relatively inexpensive and is easy to cluster. The CPU density (two processors per rack unit) is extremely attractive to server co- location facilities because they charge by the square foot.

Based on Viper NT, Network Engines Inc.’s high-density Windows NT-based Web appliance, the Micron NetFrame 4400R is also a virtual clone of IBM’s two-processor offering, the IBM Netfinity 4000R.

The NetFrame 4400R, which shipped last month with a base price of $3,699, was clearly designed to be used as a Web server. In tests, the skinny NetFrame 4400R performed reasonably well and it wasn’t terribly difficult to set up. Two integrated 10/100 Ethernet NICs are included, as are two Universal Serial Bus ports. Twin power supplies (for redun dancy) and a floppy drive are noticeably missing, however.

A portless view

The rear of the NetFrame 4400R looks a little strange because there are no ports for video, the keyboard or the mouse. These ports aren’t necessary, however, because each server comes with an integrated KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) switch and proprietary cabling. This innovative approach allowed us to share a single monitor, keyboard and mouse with multiple servers-a great way to save expensive data center space. (Normally, a separate KVM unit would take up rack space.)

The interior of the NetFrame 4400R was surprisingly spacious and well laid-out, but to get to the innards, we had to remove several screws. Furthermore, it was somewhat difficult to remove and add PCI cards. The NetFrame 4400R’s predecessor was a Web server appliance, and accessibility features such as thumbscrews and trap doors were obviously not a priority.

The NetFrame 4400R comes with 1GB of RAM, expandable to 2GB. With a paltry storage capacity of two hard drives (and non-hot-swappable drives at that), it is hard to justify using the NetFrame 4400R in any application that requires a lot of disk transactions or will be used as a file server. Micron is investigating external storage units, which should broaden the NetFrame 4400R’s range of use, company officials said.

We were also disappointed that the most powerful processors we could get for the NetFrame 4400R were 550MHz Pentium IIIs and that the NetFrame 4400R’s system bus ran at 100MHz-most new servers have the 133MHz bus. Still, the upgrade cycle for the 100MHz bus has been expanded substantially by Intel Corp., so don’t write off this server just because of the bus speed.

In tests, the NetFrame 4400R’s disk access was the major bottleneck (CPU utilization never even got close to 100 percent). This means that any bus or processor improvements made to it would be moot because the disk subsystem would be dragging the whole server down, anyway.

Running the Ziff-Davis Benchmark Operation’s WebBench static content test, we found that the NetFrame could crank out roughly 1,800 transactions per second, which is in the same performance ballpark as a Compaq Computer Corp. DL380 equipped with 733MHz processors and a 133MHz bus. It’s important to note, however, that we stripped the Compaq to two hard drives and 1GB of RAM, so CPU performance and bus speed were not the bottleneck.

According to Micron officials, the 100MHz bus will be able to support 1GHz processors when they come to market.

By the end of the month, customers will be able to equip their Micron 4400R servers with 700MHz, 750MHz or 800MHz processors. c

Executive Summary: Micron NetFrame 4400R

Short-Term Business Impact: IT administrators considering the NetFrame 4400R must plan their clustering strategies carefully because hardware redundancy is not available. However, the low entry cost will make it relatively easy on the budget.

Long-Term Business Impact: Over the long haul, the NetFrame 4400R will save IT managers thousands of dollars per year in real estate space at co-location centers.

The NetFrame 4400R squeezes the power of two processors into a single rack unit. The NetFrame 4400R is very cluster-friendly and well-suited for server co-location facilities, although it lacks hardware redundancy and storage capacity.