Tech Industry

Year in review: "Big iron" changes

Although historically more immune to price fluctuations than PC makers, server companies could not avoid the harsh realities of the economic slowdown in 2002.

 







Big changes for "big iron"

Server makers break out the long blades.


Although historically more immune to price fluctuations than PC makers, server companies could not avoid the harsh realities of the economic slowdown in 2002.

Server sales shrank for the second year in a row while RISC-Unix manufacturers constantly tried to undercut each other in price. IBM and Dell Computer gained market share, at various times of the year, at the expense of Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

The intense competition also forced consolidation, both commercially and technologically. Compaq Computer, long the leader in Intel-based servers, became part of HP. The move vaulted HP to the No. 1 position in the market and gave the company valuable assets such as the Tandem division.

Still, the acquisition meant one less independent manufacturer in the market and will reduce the variety of technology because HP said it will phase out PA-RISC and Alpha servers over the next four years.

Sales are expected to grow again in 2003, but the market will look different. For the first time, revenue from Intel-based servers will surpass sales of more expensive RISC-Unix servers.

Intel servers currently account for more than 80 percent of the servers shipped in terms of units, but most of these have been one- and two-processor systems. The increasing performance of these chips, though, is growing in the four- and eight-processor market.

Despite the economic chill, new technologies and architectures continued to evolve. Nearly every major manufacturer unfurled products, or at least plans, based on blade servers. These thin servers, mounted inside a rack and more easily managed than traditional servers, also became more versatile: IBM's blade rack in the future will accommodate networking equipment from Cisco Systems and other products.

Meanwhile, the supercomputing market saw the resurgence of Japanese manufacturers. NEC's Earth Simulator, activated in late 2001, became the world's top performing computer. U.S. manufacturers began to benefit from increased funding for grid and supercomputing projects related to domestic security.

--Michael Kanellos


Sun debuts midrange "Starkitty" server
The 52-processor machine, which plugs a gap in the company's product line that Hewlett-Packard and IBM were able to exploit, contains as many as 52 900MHz UltraSparc III processors.

April 9, 2002

IBM expands use of server chip
The two-processor Power4 is the spearhead of the company's assault to regain market share lost to Sun Microsystems and to capitalize on server problems at HP.

April 29, 2002

Supercomputer giants stand tall in rankings
A supercomputer in Japan that ties together 5,120 processors widens its lead as the world's most powerful computer.

May 16, 2002

Big Blue's mainframe makeover
IBM dramatically changes the underlying architecture of its zSeries mainframes to substantially reduce the cost and time involved in bringing products to market.

May 21, 2002

Supercomputers getting super-duper
How does your home PC match up on this list of the world's fastest computers?

June 20, 2002

Itanium 2 on the way, but will it sell?
The processor marks a significant step in Intel's strategy to penetrate the upper echelons of the computing market, but it faces hurdles.

July 8, 2002

Sun boasts cheaper Linux PC
The company says it will sell Linux-based desktops that will cost less than half to own and operate than comparable Windows systems.

September 18, 2002

Sun touts savings via "N1" project
The plan will allow network administrators to increase computing power for a particular job and guarantee response times for completing those tasks.

September 19, 2002

"Computing on demand" gets spotlight
Big Blue anticipates that a combination of networks and other advances such as grid computing will allow businesses to buy computing power on demand, similar to the way electricity is purchased.

October 30, 2002

Dell slings its "blade" server line
The product is part of a larger effort by the company to expand beyond the PC.

November 25, 2002

 


• IBM extends its server lead
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• Sun in server benchmark war
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• IBM, Intel share blade server designs