Gartner released a research note Tuesday on the shift in the server market towards Web 2.0 and high performance computing, exemplified in IBM's launch of the iDataPlex server last week. Gartner analysts John Enck, Andrew Butler and Carl Claunch believe that "innovation in packaging will continue to drive data center density." An excerpt:
Sales of servers in the Web 2.0 and high-performance computing (HPC) niches are outpacing those in the general server market. These two segments currently have unique requirements: Purchasers want the lowest-cost, lowest-overhead server, but with the most efficient power management and cooling. IBM's iDataPlex is explicitly targeted at these market segments and provides IBM with an architectural framework for addressing the emerging interest in cloud computing. ... Although iDataPlex is not appropriate for most enterprises today, it points to where server hardware is heading. Servers have evolved from tower servers to blade servers mounted in a chassis - and now the rack itself is becoming an integral part of the server.
Gartner said it expects similar offerings from a number of mainstream vendors within the next two years.
IBM's approach isn't entirely novel, as we noted last week. At 15 inches in depth, IBM's design is much more compact than traditional 1U "pizza box" servers, taking a page from half-depth servers designed by Rackable Systems (RACK).
This was also noted at Dell's Cloud Computing Blog, where Todd Brannon emphasized that while IBM has made a big splash, the largest search engines have been working with other vendors for years already - including Dell as well as Rackable and Verari Systems. Given the impact of virtualization in the enterprise data center - where server sales have slowed as companies use virtual servers to improve their capacity utilization - the action is shifting to the cloud builders, and we'll see more custom products and greater competition for that business.