Overview: A Crop of Entry-Level Servers - Page 2

By Drew Robb
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“The T300 server helps companies handle memory-intensive applications by offering up to 24GB of memory – three times the memory capacity of competitive systems,” said Armando Acosta, senior PowerEdge product line manager for Dell. “The T300 means that small and medium businesses no longer have to sacrifice server performance or reliability for an affordable price.”

Pricing on the PowerEdge T105 (with an AMD processor), currently available at the Dell Web site, starts at $349. That offer may have expired by the time you read this, but it covered a dual core AMD processor, 1 GB of memory and two 360 GB hard drives.

"Dell's business strategy thrives on standardization and mass volumes of one- and two-processor servers," said Jed Scaramella,” an analyst at International Data Corp. (IDC). 

HP offers several models for less than $1,000. The HP ProLiant ML 110, for example, starts at less than $600. And even when you configure it with the best processors, plenty of memory and even Microsoft Small Business Server software it still costs less than $1,200.

IBM, meanwhile, sells its x3200 server starting at $872. This buys you an Intel Pentium dual-core processor, 1 GB of memory and no hard drives. If you want an Intel Xeon dual core processor, 2 GB of memory and a 160 GB hard drive, it costs $1,642.

Sun Microsystems also offers a few low-end options The Sun Fire X2100, for instance, starts at $1,138. That buys you a dual-core Opteron processor, 1 GB of memory but no hard drives. You can customize it by adding more powerful processors, up to 8 GB of memory and up to 1.5 TB of storage.

Acer focuses mainly on PCs and laptops, but it recently branched into the server market with economically priced models. The Acer Altos G330 offers an Intel Pentium processor with 1 GB of RAM and a 250 GB hard drive. It costs $840. With a dual-core Xeon processor, 2 GB of RAM and two 250 GB hard drives, the price goes up to only $923.

As you can see, there is quite a difference in price based on the type of processor you choose. Obviously, the better the chip, the better the performance. But there is a way to get the best of both worlds.

Sabine Waterkamp president of for ACSLA, a provider of IT services for SMBs, advises small business owners to buy a marginally slower processor. “Purchase one notch under the fastest CPU available," she said. "The fastest model usually carries a premium on price."

A Low-End Revolution

According to numbers supplied by IDC, a revolution has taken place in the computing landscape over the past decade, deeply affecting the SMB space in particular. The installed base of high-end servers in this country actually dropped one-third from 33,000 in 1996 to 22,000 in 2005.

During that same time period, low-end servers grew nearly seven-fold from 1.47 million to 9.89 million, and the gap is growing. IDC stats for 2007 show that 7.6 million lower-end server units shipped last year (out of a total 8 million servers), an 8.3 percent rise over the previous year. More and more of these units end up in the hands of small businesses. And the good news is that despite vendor consolidation, there are still loads of choices out there.

Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.

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This article was originally published on July 23, 2008
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