Homepage: Putting the heat on name brands

Homepage: Putting the heat on name brands

Many resellers love the idea. Vendors such as IBM and HP hate it. Intel loves it, but can't be too public about its feelings. End users range from loving it to hating it, but many couldn't care. What is it? The white box server!

The industry is selling a lot of servers and there's still usable margin in it. And with any luck, this situation will continue. The trouble is, it's getting harder for the name-brand boys to convince many resellers and their customers that they need a top brand name-badge on their servers (or any brand at all if it comes to that). Put an unbranded notebook or even desktop in front of an executive and he may complain. Put an unbranded server behind his services and he probably won't ever know or care.

Today's low-to-mid-end servers are essentially commodity items. "How many Xeons does sir want in his server? And will sir have 256 Megabytes and a couple of huge, hot-swappable disks and the same in power supplies?" Much more important to the MIS manager is that the system is deliverable when he wants it, that it works reliably, and that he can be guaranteed service and spares.

Intel realises it, and that's why the biggest processor maker could also be considered the biggest server manufacturer too. While it mightn't actually assemble the machines, most systems integrators who produce these no-name servers do so to strict Intel guidelines. And therein lies the confidence with which savvy customers buy these machines. They know that in many ways these machines are much more standard and maintainable than servers from the big names. They know that if you stop selling IT and start selling real estate instead, they'll have no trouble finding someone else to sell them the next server. You, likewise, know that there are other systems assemblers, should you need another source of supply.

Of course, the name brands will tell you this all leads to a stagnant industry. Without name brands differentiating themselves with new I/O systems or security features or fancy-named doodads how can the industry experiment, and thereby progress? I wouldn't worry too much. There'll always be the name brands. They just won't have the market to themselves. Especially if they keep mucking the channel around. Channel this week, direct the next, channel the next?

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