Just as the soft drink world has Coke and Pepsi and fast food is synonymous with both McDonald's and Burger King, the processor industry is now a two-horse race with AMD and Intel competing on both the desktop and in the server room.
The rise of AMD servers is hardly news as Sun, HP, IBM and, most recently, Dell have embraced AMD in their server lines. However, you can now add one more player to the roster of server vendors offering customers a choice. Gateway, a long-time and close partner of Intel, now is on the AMD bandwagon with a new line of Opteron-based servers that Marc Tanguay, Gateway's product manager for servers, said have been in development for more than a year.
Tanguay said that offering a choice between Intel and AMD is important because they have strengths in different areas. Intel's processors are well-suited to offer peak database performance and AMD is stronger in I/O throughput. It's not really about price, he said, as systems from the rival processors typically cost about the same. "AMD is about $50 more," he added.
Gateway's new line includes three AMD Opteron-based servers: the dual-core 1U E-9422R, 2U E-9522R and 3U E-9722R rack systems.
In addition to breaking the AMD ice, the new servers, Tanguay said, also feature integrated RAID, redundant hot-swap fans and power supplies, and Gateway Lights Out (GLO) system management to remotely shut down and restart servers regardless of power condition. An optional ($149) remote control KVM (Keyboard, Video, and Mouse) with media redirect features is designed to take remote control of a server.
The three servers also support both SAS and SATA II hard drives in the same system. This provides the benefit of being able to dedicate high-performance SAS drives for some applications and lower-cost SATA II drives for less performance-intensive chores. And by offering integrated RAID, you can save an expansion slot.
To make the servers easier to upgrade and support, all three feature tool-free chassis and motherboards and color-coded components. The three servers also share components including RAID daughter cards, drive carriers and system management.
The Gateway Lineup
The Gateway E-9422R 1U Rack Server supports up to two dual-core AMD Opteron 2000 Series processors and NVIDIA MCP 55 Pro chipset. It can also be equipped with optional AMD Opteron HE processors. The "HE" designation indicates a 55W power consumption, which is designed to save power and air-conditioning costs.
Designed to offer load balancing and distributing processing, the Gateway E-9422R features four integrated 10/100/1000 GbE network interface cards. It also supports up to 32GB of ECC DDR2 memory.
It can accommodate up to four 3.5-inch hot-swap SAS or SATA II hard drives, it has a storage capacity of up to 3.0TB using SATA II drives. Prices for the E-9422R start at $1,799.
Like the Opteron-based E-9422R 1U rack server, the E-9522R 2U server offers four NICs that can also be equipped with optional AMD Opteron HE processors. However, it has six SAS or SATA II hard drives and five PCI slots and offers a storage capacity of up to 4.5TB. Prices for the E-9522R start at $1,849.
|The Gateway E-9422R 1U and Gateway E-9522R 2U (shown above) sport a new design, common components, sub -$2,000 pricing and AMD dual-core processors.|
The 1U and 2U servers are also designed to share components, Tanguay said, meaning that you can swap power supplies, fans and motherboards between the servers should you choose to upgrade. He added that Gateway also uses the same rack chassis for its AMD and Intel servers, allowing you to mix and match.
The 1U and 2U offers an alternative to a small business that may have opted for tower-based servers in the past. "The E-9422R and E-9522R offer better reliability. They are particularly attractive for businesses with two-10 servers," Tanguay said. "SMB customers want 1U and 2U rackable servers, not just tower-based systems."
IDC's Ray Boggs agrees. The research firm's vice president for SMBs said, "We haven't seen the highest penetration for rackmount servers, but it's definitely increasing. When you cross the 20-people and 50-people thresholds in a business, rackmounts become appealing. Just the physical security of having all the servers in one place is important. I've seen situations where the tower is sitting next to the receptionist and someone literally trips over the server." Boggs also said the sub-$2,000 price tags for the IU and 2U servers were impressive.
Intent on Being Dense
Gateway describes its 3U E-9722R Server as an "ultra-dense rack server. We shrunk the 4U into 3U chassis to add more density in a rack enclosure," Tanguay said. The 4x server can accommodate up to four dual-core AMD Opteron 8000 Series processors and is based on the NVIDIA MCP55 Pro chipset. Like the 1U and 2U servers, the E-9722R is also offered with optional AMD Opteron HE processors for better power efficiency.
"The 4x is a tremendous virtualization platform," Tanguay said, and offers a cost-effective way to approach server consolidation. The server's architecture offers x86 virtualization capabilities to help optimize performance of VMware GSX and Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 applications, according to the company. AMD's Direct Connect Architecture combined with an integrated memory controller is designed to provide efficient isolation of virtual machine memory for improved virtual machine performance and security.
Gateway would not provide pricing details for it 3U server.
Better Than a Blade?
The new servers are good alternatives to blade systems for things such as RAID implementation, Tanguay said. "It's redundant and available built-in to the chassis," he said. "[The servers] compete well with blades because they're based on industry standards and familiar operating systems. There's no learning on the fly as there is in blades."
While small businesses with fewer than 100 employees are only in the early stages of investigating blades, businesses with 100 more than employees are already seeing the benefits of blades, IDC's Boggs said, so the blade-like features are definitely relevant to mid-sized businesses today and will become relevant to small businesses in the future.
So once you buy your server chassis and the servers themselves, who's going to manage them? One option is Gateway itself. The vendor offers professional services for customers that may not have IT resources to manage tasks such as network planning and implementation, backup and disaster recovery, data and application migration, server virtualization, Citrix implementation, Hitachi SAN implementation, server consolidation and clustering.
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