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Gateway heads into server market

Gateway Inc. has been working to make a name for itself in the server market, offering rack-mount servers and possibly blade servers in the near future.

When you think Gateway, what comes to mind? First, you probably picture the black and white cow skin design, followed by desktop products lining the shelves in places like Best Buy.

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Little did you know, Gateway Inc. has been working to make a name for itself in the server market, offering rack-mount servers and possibly blade servers in the near future.

"People see our products as consumer based, but we hope to wipe the slate clean with our server lineup and start new to compete in the server market," said John Karabian, Gateway's senior product manager for servers.

Gateway servers draws Dell comparisons

In November of last year, Gateway introduced three new rack-mount server systems featuring second generation Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) Opteron processors, upgradeable to quad-core processors.

The dual-core 1U, 2U and 3U rack-mount Intel- and Opteron-based servers are built at Gateway's U.S.-based configure-to-order facility in Nashville, Tenn.

Operating systems supported by Gateway are Windows Server 2003, as well as Red Hat Inc. and Novell Inc. SUSE Linux.

During a product briefing with Gateway this week, comparisons were made again and again to its most comparable competition, Dell Inc.'s PowerEdge servers, and more loosely to Hewlett Packard Co.'s (HP) ProLiant servers.

The Gateway server line offers similar configurations to HP and Dell, including two and four processor models, but the company is targeting a different audience and won't compete on the same level, said John Spooner, a senior analyst with Computer Business Quarterly, Technology Business Research Inc.

"They are aiming its professional segment, which includes servers, at government, education and healthcare, which is a subset of the overall enterprise market. It also aims some of its pedestal servers, such as the 9232T, at the SMB market. For those reasons, it's not going to ship as many units as HP or Dell, and thus its share is not going to be as high," Spooner said.

1U, 2U and 4U, no, 3U

Gateway's 1U, 2U and 3U servers are designed to be interchangeable and easy to service. Parts from the 2U and 3U are interchangeable, and all three models include integrated RAID located on a "mezzanine" board in the motherboard so the RAID capability doesn't take up a slot. The servers include Gateway Lights Out (GLO) system management -- a small, Linux-based kernel on the motherboard that manages servers and remote keyboard, video, mouse (KVM) capabilities, both options on the boxes.

The servers use AC power and can plug into a regular wall outlet, Karabian said.

The E-9422R 1U rack server platform supports up to two of the latest dual-core AMD or Intel processors. Up to four integrated 10/100/1,000 Gigabit Ethernet (GigE) network interface cards help with load balancing and distributing processing and communications activity. It also supports up to 32 GB of ECC DDR2 memory.

The Gateway E-9522R Server is Gateway's 2U rack server, featuring the latest processors from AMD and Intel.

The Gateway E-9722R Server is Gateway's 3U rack server powered by up to four dual-core AMD Opteron 8000 Series processors.

Competitors often provide four processor units in a 4U server, so the smaller size of Gateways model gives it a density advantage, Karabian said.

The 3U model does not offer an Intel chip.

"The decision not to put Intel chips in the fourway because, from a customer standpoint, they wanted [AMD] Opteron, and it enabled us to do a 3U rack with four NICs [network interface controller] in the back of the box, which is ideal for virtualization. We only have two NICs in the Intel boxes," Karabian said. "From a data standpoint, the Opteron processors are good for heavy computing demands."

The 3U server is being sold as optimal for virtualization using software, like VMware and Microsoft Virtual Server 2005, and for high-performance database (Oracle and Microsoft SQL) and enterprise resource planning (ERP)-level business applications.

It also has room for twelve 3.5-inch, hot-swap SAS or SATA II hard drives. Utilizing 750 GB SATA hard disk drives, the E-9722R supports up to 9 terabytes (TB) of storage.

Companies like HP have moved to 2.5-inch hard drives, and Gateway plans to do the same in the future to keep in line with the competition, Karabian said.

"For now, we feel the 3.5 inch is the optimum choice for us, capacity wise," he said. "We anticipate 2.5-inch needs and our engineers are working on it."

As for the chassis, they can be worked on without any tools, and feature color-coded components that identify which parts are hot swappable and which require the system to be taken off line.

When asked if Gateway plans to wade into the growing blade server pool, Karabian said he could not deny or confirm that the company will introduce a blade in the near future.

"From a competition standpoint, everyone has their own version, and there is a lot of custom technology involved … we are doing our due diligence," Karabian said.

Prices start at $1,799 for the E-9422R 1U Server with AMD's Opteron and $1,849 for the E-9522R 2U Server with Opteron.

Let us know what you think about the story; email: Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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