"Manager utilities that guide the install of the OS make everything go smoothly," says Russo. Support has also been good, he adds.
Brian Richardson, program director of Server Infrastructure Strategies at META Group Inc., of Stamford, Conn., amplifies this point. "Using remote management capabilities like Compaq's Smart Start and Insight Manager help users leverage their support staff resources," Richardson says. Reducing the ratio of system administrators to servers lowers TCO, he adds.
Common to the second and third place winners is their thin 1U chassis. Many Web server farms need high-performance systems that take up minimal floor space. Servers built in the 1U form-factor chassis fit the bill nicely, and are a common trait of this year's second and third place winners, the Sun Netra T1 and IBM eServer X330, Sue Thielen, a UNIX systems administrator at IT service and support provider ePeople Inc. of Mountain View, Calif., has installed several Sun Netra T1 servers in her computer room. "The 1U [form factor] was the entire reason we chose this puppy," she says. "We are running out of rack space at the data center, and are trying to do a physical downsize of stuff there."
Others concur. John Edwards of Results Computing, a Burke, Va., consulting firm, says, "The one feature I like most about the Netra T1 is that it comes with dual network interface cards (NICs). This makes the T1 ideal for routing and firewall applications." Reinforcing the preference for small server size, Edwards adds that "The form factor, 1U, was a key reason for purchasing the T1. These machines are located in a co-location facility where space is at a premium."
Some Netra T1 features, however, are not to everyone's liking, however. Users have posted comments on the Internet chat service Usenet that they frequently have problems with the Netra T1's non-standard serial port cabling design. "It made for a very difficult install," acknowledges Thielen.
Continued demand will keep server sales strong, even if other segments of the IT market falter. According to Lloyd Cohen, director worldwide market analysis at International Data Corp. (IDC) in Framingham, Mass., vendors sold 1.95 million servers in the U.S. last year, worth $29.9 billion. He says IDC projects that by year 2003, server vendors will sell over 2.3 million servers, worth $30.2 billion.
Neil Plotnick is the author of The IT Professional's Guide To Managing.