By Steve Grady
IT buyers often find it time-consuming to purchase servers given the many available technology options, physical configurations and prices. A variety of computer vendors sell off-the-shelf servers aimed at broad categories of buyers. The other major option is custom server vendors where buyers can build servers that meet their exact specifications. How can an IT buyer know which kind of server system will be best for them?
The correct decision depends on the how the server will be used. Suppliers of off-the-shelf servers package what they believe are the most in-demand combinations of components into a small number of servers. In many cases, these off-the-shelf vendors select components to match specific price points in the market. Off-the-shelf systems sometimes meet the needs of a customer well enough, and because many IT buyers perceive these systems as a known quantity, these buyers decide to purchase the off-the-shelf systems.
However, these off-the-shelf systems force buyers into accepting—and paying for—components they may not need, while potentially not including components that could provide better functionality at lower cost. In contrast, custom white box servers allow buyers to specify exactly what they need and pay for nothing more. This customizable capability is particularly useful in cases in which the server will play an unusual role that “mass market” off-the-shelf server configurations would perform only adequately. Using custom white box servers is the route taken by Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft, Netflix and many other large server intensive companies.
To decide whether a custom server is right for you as an IT buyer, consider the following:
- Purpose: what is the server’s purpose? Will its tasks be general or specific? What are the minimum hardware requirements for these tasks?
- Scalability: what are your infrastructure growth requirements? What kinds of servers and storage will you need in the future and in what quantity?
- Provisioning Requirements: do you need an OS and/or certain applications pre-installed?
- Form Factor: how much physical space do you have for new servers?
- Budget: how much can you spend on the new servers to realize a high ROI?
If you need a server that must meet specific technical, application, and cost requirements, a custom server is certainly the best choice for you. If you have generic requirements and can use a cookie-cutter mass produced server, that could be the right solution. However, if your IT requirements drive the need for an innovative solution that differs from the offerings of the off-the-shelf server vendors, a custom-made server is likely the right approach for success.
Steve Grady is vice president of customer solutions at Equus Compute Solutions.