Commentary: Small server companies try hard, but good technology is not enough

It would be difficult for a smaller server company to make much headway against some of the major players, such as IBM and Compaq Computer.

2 min read
By Pushan Rinnen, Gartner Analyst

The announcement of new 1U-thin servers from three companies in one day indicates the high level of demand for this type of product. Businesses and service providers want to pack more computing power into a smaller space, and dedicated hosting has taken off, also driving demand for space-efficient server designs.

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Server makers think thin with new offerings
Single-processor 1U models have become widely available during the past year from a few major server companies. More creative designs like the two-in-one or four-in-one models just announced will continue to increase the density of servers.

As density increases, so does the problem of heat build-up, which all manufacturers must confront. Companies strive to make the heat from their servers dissipate as quickly as possible, but so far the solutions are various design-related approaches rather than any technical breakthrough.

Rack-mounted thin servers pose other challenges as well. For example, the wiring from dozens of stacked boxes becomes very complicated and difficult to manage. More importantly, a larger number of thin servers would need clustering management technologies for load balancing and fail over.

With many new technologies, small companies often pioneer the market. So it is not surprising to see that the new server-density announcements come from small companies.

But it would be difficult for a smaller server company to make much headway against some of the major players, such as IBM and Compaq Computer. New technology represents only part of the equation.

The major companies have the marketing muscle and channel breadth to push the new technology to the mainstream. They will either develop their own competitive technology, acquire it from a small company through an original equipment manufacturer (OEM) agreement or simply buy out a small competitor.

To survive on its own, the small company must continue to innovate ahead of its big brothers. The hard truth is that for many small companies, an OEM agreement represents the height of success.

(For related commentary on server environmentals and planning a server room, see TechRepublic.com--free registration required.)

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