Cheap commodity servers can turn into expensive investments

There's a lot of loose talk going around about commodity servers. As tempting as it is to think we live in the golden age of dirt-cheap computers, equipment is more expensive than it first appears:

Capacity planning guy walks into a procurement guy's office. "Our server processor utilization is more than 50%, we need to buy another one," he says.

Procurement guy starts typing into his spreadsheet. "Buy another server. Check."

"Can you get one of those rack-mounted ones? I hear they're cheaper."

"Rack-mounted? Check. At least I think so. I'll put in an order for another rack system, because our current one is close to capacity."

"And we'll need power and cooling for it."

"Right, more electricity into the computer room. I'll requisition an extension cord and a three-prong adapter."

"And let the system admin team know it's got to image the operating system on it. Let's get Linux because it's free."

"We'll get another copy of Red Hat's distribution."

"Oh, and this will be a database server, so we'll need a DBMS [database management system]."

"I'm sure those nice folks at Oracle will sell us another license."

"And we'll need 4 GB of disk for the database instance."

"4 GB. Check."

"And we'll need to hook it up to the SAN [storage area network], so upgrade any of the storage network that it needs."

"SAN upgrade ..."

"Don't forget about the cabling

Requires Free Membership to View

and network equipment we'll need to talk to it."

"I'll let them know."

"Oh, and this is a mission-critical application, so we'll need redundancy for everything that's attached to it."

"OK -- everything times two."

"Right. And we'll need software that will automatically fail over the OS and database instance."

"Veritas. Check."

"Is that everything?"

"Here's what I have: two processors, a new rack, two Red Hat distributions, 8 G of storage, two Oracle licenses, SAN upgrade, network cabling and failover software."

"You got it. Thank goodness processors are so cheap now."

So while all this talk about "cheap" commodity servers may get a lot of hype, buying one is likely to involve more than a single purchase -- or piece of technology. Combined with new software, equipment and upgrades that may be needed, the price tag becomes less attractive than at first glance. So if you're planning a new server purchase, it's important to factor in all elements of the investment so there are no costly surprises.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: For 24 years, Robert Crawford has worked off and on as a CICS systems programmer. He is experienced in debugging and tuning applications and has written in COBOL, Assembler and C++ using VSAM, DLI and DB2.

This was first published in February 2008

There are Comments. Add yours.

TIP: Want to include a code block in your comment? Use <pre> or <code> tags around the desired text. Ex: <code>insert code</code>

REGISTER or login:

Forgot Password?
By submitting you agree to receive email from TechTarget and its partners. If you reside outside of the United States, you consent to having your personal data transferred to and processed in the United States. Privacy
Sort by: OldestNewest

Forgot Password?

No problem! Submit your e-mail address below. We'll send you an email containing your password.

Your password has been sent to:

Disclaimer: Our Tips Exchange is a forum for you to share technical advice and expertise with your peers and to learn from other enterprise IT professionals. TechTarget provides the infrastructure to facilitate this sharing of information. However, we cannot guarantee the accuracy or validity of the material submitted. You agree that your use of the Ask The Expert services and your reliance on any questions, answers, information or other materials received through this Web site is at your own risk.