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Server designs are going through a radical transformation
that should have some far-reaching impact throughout the channel.

Two of the best examples of this transformation come in the
form of new server designs from Hewlett-Packard and Critical Links.

HP this week has rolled out a new Adaptive
Infrastructure in a Box for Midsize Business
offering that combines what
were once several separate servers into a single box running Windows Server 2008.

Based on a blade server architecture, the core idea behind
these servers has been a long time in coming from when vendors first started
rolling out blade servers. What HP has done is dedicated specific processors
inside the blade server to handling specific functions in order to eliminate
the need for specialized server appliances.

Similarly, Critical Links has leveraged open source
technologies to create an all-in-one EdgeBox network
that combines telephony, firewall, router, wireless access point,
file and print server, web and electronic mail server, unified threat
management and traffic prioritization technologies in a single server.

Both approaches represent a potential for substantial
savings for customers not only in the cost of acquisition for server
technology, but in the number of people it takes to manage various servers.

Of course, some solution providers might bemoan the fact
that what we are really talking about here is selling fewer servers, which
might have an adverse impact on profit margins should a solution provider wind
up selling fewer actual servers.

But for any solution provider that has a business focused on
managed services, the advent of all-in-one servers could represent a
substantial savings on customer service. Instead of having to master multiple
systems management systems, these servers can be remotely managed using a
common console. That’s should result in less cost in training and the actual
number of people needed to manage these systems.

The vendors, of course, will also argue that these designs
also represent an opportunity for having an upgrade conversation with a
customer in a way that ultimately saves the customer money on IT staffing. In
effect, this means that these systems can almost pay for themselves.

The HP offering has a starting price of about $18,000 for a
system that can support up to 300 users. The Critical Links server is roughly
$3,000 for an implementation that supports up to 40 users, which it compares to
a similar implementation based on Microsoft technologies that would cost

Odds are strong that these servers only represent the first
in a long line of new server designs. As multicore processors move mainstream,
solution providers should expect to see a whole new range of servers that
leverage different processors to perform specific functions.

The ultimate end result of all this work should be the end
of server sprawl over the IT infrastructure. And that’s a good thing because we
all know that the real cost of enterprise computing is not the products
themselves, but rather all the people we need today to manage it.