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The New Server Battlefield

These days, you can look at the server market in more than one way: From a pricing perspective, servers are clearly becoming commoditized, yet they still offer tremendous growth opportunities for solution providers.

Though the emphasis of servers has shifted to a consolidated infrastructure and price-performance, the server market has not hit the skids. The worldwide server market fell just shy of $50 billion last year, growing more than 7 percent, according to Gartner. Unit growth, however, was almost three times revenue growth--or nearly 21 percent. Despite falling prices, such growth provides the opportunity for services revenue, and up-selling storage and software.

Currently, three vendors have the most at stake: Dell, Hewlett-Packard and IBM. The latest servers to hit the market show the battle is being fought over the ability to manage them. Dell's growth is outpacing the others', though HP and IBM account for a majority of all server revenue. Still, Dell's unit growth suggests that price points on industry-standard servers require rivals to do more than add a few bells and whistles.

HP has done just that with System Insight Manager, the administration tool developed by the former Compaq that provides a common administration interface with all of HP's servers, from entry-level ProLiants to high-end Superdomes. Additionally, HP has added storage to the mix. Last month, it rolled out Storage Essentials, which uses industry standards to allow an administrator to monitor server and storage resources.

HP gained this new capability through an OEM agreement with AppIQ. Administrators can use Insight Manager to launch Storage Essentials and manage storage arrays. Now, the two companies are working to build the Storage Essentials product as a native part of the HP Insight Manager, says Rich Escott, HP's director of storage management software. That release, due out later this year, will integrate the application logic of Storage Essentials into the common services of HP System Insight Manager. Administrators will have one single sign-on; role-based security; one common event subsystem that collects, correlates and routes all of the events from servers and storage; one common discovery system that finds the topology and discovers the relationships between servers, networks and storage; and one common database object repository, Escott says.

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