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Sticky Servers

I read the announcements from HP around their Gen 8 servers with some interest and increasing amusement. Now HP are an intrinsically amusing funny company but it isn’t that which is amusing me, it’s the whole server industry and an interesting trend.

The Intel server industry was built on the back of the ‘PC Compatible’ desktop; where you could buy a PC from pretty much any vendor and run MS-DOS and run the same application anywhere. They all looked the same and if you could maintain one, you could maintain any of them.

Along came the PC Server and it was pretty the same thing; if you could maintain Server Brand X, you could maintain Server Brand Y. And so it pootled along until blade-servers came along and muddied the water a bit but it wasn’t so hard.

If you wanted to migrate between server vendors, it wasn’t rocket science; if you wanted to move from Compaq to Dell to IBM, it was not a big deal to be honest. Although sometimes the way people carried on, you would have thought you were moving from gas-powered computers to electric computers to computers with their own nuclear reactors in.

And then along come Cisco with UCS and the Intel server got bells, whistles and fancy pants. All in the name of ‘Ease of Use and Management’; it’s all fancy interfaces and APIs; new things to learn and all slightly non-standard.

And now HP follow along with Gen-8; it’s all going to be slightly non-standard and continue to drift away from the original whitebox server. The rest of the vendors are all moving this way, how do I make sure that customers remain loyal and sticky.

It’s all going to get increasingly hard to migrate between server vendors without major rethinks and retrains. Perhaps this is all going to accelerate the journey to the public cloud because I don’t want to care about that!

And as a storage guy, I can’t help but laugh!  Welcome to our world!


  • Chris Patterson

    It seems to me that it is all still the same thing under the hood, it is just the steering wheel that is changing. HP is moving some of it’s provisioning/management tools and stuff from it’s iLO closer to the BIOS/UEFI, which is really all Cisco did. They are all x86 and still run the same workloads across the vendors. I wonder how many actually leverage all the functionality aside from large deployments? Is it really that big a burden to sys admins? I doubt it is as significant as going from a VMAX to a XIV.

    I personally see it as a bunch of vendors who have been caught in the race to the bottom who are trying to differentiate themselves to add value/margin. If you don’t need the features, they can be safely ignored..

    Though I suppose you are right. If you have a large install and are married to the features, you are caught in the trap..

    my 2c