Baby’s first data center | The micro server

data center

Branch offices and small businesses face a lot of IT challenges. Often high on the list: no computer room. If they’re lucky, there’s a comfy alcove where a desktop can be tucked, a desktop that probably isn’t server-grade. HP’s updated ProLiant MicroServer Gen8 is designed for just that sort of environment. It’s a cube (well, almost) measuring roughly 9 inches per side, and is quite happy sitting on a desk or shelf. It even has a choice of bezel colors, yet it’s a real server.

I never thought I’d be referring to a server as “cute,” but there’s a first time for everything. The MicroServer is a charming little contraption. In the tiny enclosure, it contains all the pieces you would expect in a server: processing, storage, management card, and networking. HP has even designed a network switch that fits perfectly into a depression on top of the server. HP’s Enterprise Group EVP, Dave Donatelli, mischievously referred to it as “baby’s first data center” during his keynote at HP Discover earlier this month, and suggested that it might even make a great gift for a new grad as a home server.

The server plugs into a standard office electrical socket. Since everything is pre-integrated in the box, all you need to get it going is to plug in two cables: power and network. Then IT at your head office can do any necessary configuration and management remotely. The MicroServer is certified to run Windows Server, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, and SuSE Linux Enterprise Server.

Base configuration, consisting of enclosure, 2.4 GHz dual-core Celeron processor, 2 GB RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, 5 USB 2.0 and 2 USB 3.0 ports, a MicroSD slot, integrated SATA RAID controller (but no disk), costs $449, so it’s affordable for the tiniest business. Load it up and you get a 2.5 GHz dual-core Pentium processor, up to 16 GB memory, and up to 12 TB disk storage.

The server is rated to support small groups, say, about ten people, though I suspect when it’s fully loaded it could handle more, as long as their needs were modest.

Smaller servers seem to be all the rage. A couple of weeks before HP announced the MicroServer, Dell came out with its PowerEdge VRTX (pronounced “vertex”).The PowerEdge VRTX is a small or midsize office server that lives in a tower case. It also takes ordinary office power. Dell says it’s “library quiet,” an important consideration when the server sits out in the office. Configuration-wise though, it’s not a baby, holding up to 50 TB of storage, six fans, and up to four server nodes, the same ones you’d find in Dell’s enterprise servers. Like the MicroServer, it also contains a management card and networking components. Unlike MicroServer, its switch is built in. And it costs a lot more. Around $10,000 actually. However, you’re getting quite a bit of muscle for the money.

Products like these mean smaller offices can have proper servers in place, and not facing the risks involved in using a PC as their small office server. Both servers contain remote management cards, and can be monitored from head office, yet can cope with an uncontrolled environment like an office. It’s the best of both worlds for users and IT alike.

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