Next-gen servers: The next big thing

As small businesses implement the latest technology to keep up with client demands, next-generation servers come to the forefront of the discussion. But what is a "next-gen" server exactly?

To put it simply, "next gen" refers to a server with increased processor speed, enhanced management features and greater energy efficiency. Although they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, next-gen servers can yield large benefits for small businesses, resulting in cost savings of up to 40% due to reduced power consumption and more efficient cooling as well as greater compute power and ease of management.

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Overall, the greater management capabilities that come with next-gen servers are a huge time saver for any organization, especially for businesses that might have smaller IT shops. Simple management makes things easier on IT staff and reigns in the sprawl of management features that you typically see in server environments. There is more control of where the compute is used and which parts of the organization are driving the compute, so even a limited IT staff can do more with less. Next-gen servers enable IT to focus on critical issues throughout the company rather than focusing on frequent and/or unexpected maintenance requests.

The superior management features of next-gen servers are due to the enhanced intelligence of the machine itself and the applications it is running. With a traditional server, moving applications from the testing phase to production can take anywhere from days to weeks to months, while with a next-gen server, it can take just hours. There is no longer a need to power devices down and/or interrupt a normal workday to move an application. Moving and updating applications is now a seamless process that can take place with zero downtime and little to no disruptions to the end user.

Green benefits

Most of the advantages that come with next-gen servers relate to consolidation -- but when you consolidate, you change the environment in the data center, and as such, the power and cooling requirements. As these requirements change, organizations can take advantage of what they have done from a consolidation standpoint to realize true energy savings. With smarter software in place, next-gen servers are also intelligent enough to power down when possible, reducing the need for constant cooling by allocating power in accordance with usage.

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While "going green" is not necessarily the primary goal when next-gen servers are implemented, it is certainly an added bonus that comes with consolidation. It is really a matter of real estate -- next-gen servers enable more compute via fewer servers that take up less space. The days of the "one application per server" rule are long gone.

Are next-gen servers right for your business?

There are a number of factors to consider when determining the server technology that is best for your company. First, identify the applications that require the greatest amount of compute and which are mission-critical to increase revenue and/or decrease cost. It is also important to map out traditional tower servers that serve an important purpose and can be more efficient with next-gen technology versus those that might operate better with blade servers that offer more flexibility and scalability. Also, think about where your company will be in a few years. Will you need more compute power for a growing business, or are your current servers sufficient? Reform factor and technology needs are key areas to consider.

If you are further along in the next-gen implementation process, consider next-gen cloud servers. These are simply next-gen servers that are connected to a storage area network (SAN) that provides access to consolidated, block-level data storage. With cloud, there is a seamless transition into networking and storage. You also have the choice to manage on-site or to take advantage of cloud offerings from a trusted solutions provider such as CDW. Having a third party manage your non-vital applications enables your organization to concentrate its efforts on mission critical apps.

Next-generation servers can cut costs and boost management capabilities, resulting in fewer challenges for IT staff and greater savings for your organization. If your business is considering next-gen server technology, or if you are not entirely sure which servers will best support your business, a trusted solutions provider like CDW can help.

CDW is a leading provider of technology solutions for business, government, education and healthcare. Ranked No. 31 on Forbes' list of America's Largest Private Companies and No. 270 on the Fortune 500, CDW was founded in 1984 and employs more than 6,900 co-workers. For the trailing 12 months ended Sept. 30, 2012, the company generated net sales of more than $10 billion. For more information, visit www.CDW.com.

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This story, "Next-gen servers: The next big thing" was originally published by Network World.

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