February 10, 2010, 9:17 AM — Dual-processor, pizza-box servers have been a staple of computing infrastructure for much of the last 10 years. When an IT organization says it's building a new cluster or adding capacity to a server farm, it is invariably referring to purchasing these commodity servers, sliding them into racks, tying them into the network, and firing them up. In this sense, these systems are truly commodity items -- the individual bricks that make up the computing edifice. To get an idea of the current state of the art, we approached three vendors (Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and Lenovo) to let us examine their standard, two-processor servers and see what they offer and at what cost.
Predictably, we found these machines were a lot alike in most ways that count to IT: processing power on a dollar-adjusted basis was similar. The areas of difference tended to be small features, the importance of which depends on specific needs of each site. The good news is that all three vendors delivered good products at favorable prices. Choosing any one of the models we reviewed will produce a satisfactory result. Consequently, we expect most organizations to continue using the same brand of vendor they have already settled on. However, the details of these models might well induce you to examine more of your vendor's server configurations.
[ Learn why Intel's Nehalem Xeon processor simply sizzles. Read the InfoWorld Test Center reviews of Nehalem-based Dell, Fujitsu, and HP tower servers, Nehalem-based Sun Fire servers, Nehalem-based Dell, HP, and Lenovo workstations and the Nehalem-based Apple Xserve and Mac Pro. ]