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Intel Aims Modular Server at SMB Space

Small and midsize businesses (SMBs) looking for enterprise-class servers and storage now have a low-hassle option: Intel's Modular Server. The pay-as-you-go network in a box provides SMBs with a high degree of functionality and flexibility, together with key virtualization capabilities, and easy management and maintenance.

"SMB guys would love to have enterprise-class capability with a Fibre Channel SAN and all that, but there are two hurdles: cost and complexity," says Jared Leavitt, product manager for the Modular Server at Intel. "You put a Fibre Channel SAN in and you're paying [$10,000-plus] just for a Fibre Channel switch. And these guys do everything-the phones, the desktop-they don't have time to be SAN administrators."

Intel Corp.
Intel Modular Server
January 2008
  • Pricing depends on configuration, but ranges from about $7,000 for a one-compute node version to about $32,000 fully loaded. Pricing is determined by resellers.

    Key Features:
  • Easy-to-configure network in a box
  • Can support multiple server and storage configurations to match customer needs
  • Easier to manage and maintain than more high-end blade systems
  • Low power and cooling requirements mean low total cost of ownership

    Competition:
  • Mix-and-match servers, switches and SANs

    Opportunities:
  • Provides easy configuration and management designed specifically for SMB space
  • Offers easy tailoring to specific customer needs
  • Allows customers to pay as they grow
  • With the Intel Modular Server, the enterprise-class capabilities are there, but the cost and complexity have been eliminated: "They have a SAN, but it's all plug-and-play, and point-and-click," Leavitt says.

    The Intel Modular Server is a 6U box that supports up to six Server Compute Modules and 14 Serial-Attached SCSI (SAS) 2.5-inch hard disk drives for a total of 2TB of storage. It also comes with one or two Ethernet Switch Modules, an integrated SAS SAN and a Management Module.

    Leavitt points out another major feature: diskless servers. The compute nodes automatically boot directly from the SAN, significantly easing maintenance and troubleshooting. "You don't have any hard drives on the servers, so if a compute module fails, you can just plug another one in or take the virtual drives you created, map them to a different server and reboot it," Leavitt says. "And within about three minutes, you're back in business."

    In addition, the low maintenance and low-power requirements mean the setup should deliver a quick return on investment, a factor that's likely to appeal to your SMB customers. For example, Intel says that a two-server model runs at about 84 degrees and uses about 198 watts of power.

    For such a compact box, however, the Modular Server is a bit loud. Intel now ships a "quiet kit" to reduce the noise from the current 60 to 80 decibels to about 50 to 70 decibels. "For some customers, noise level is extremely important," says Mike Fay, vice president of sales at Colfax International Inc., a Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Modular Server reseller and Certified Partner. "The quiet kit should help there."

    Marketing and Sales
    Intel offers several marketing aids on its Modular Server site, including white papers, ad templates, flyers, product briefs, videos and sales presentations.

    Because the Modular Server is relatively easy to configure, some partners offer their own interactive build-out tools. For example, Colfax offers a configuration tool that lets customers build their Modular Servers to their precise specifications. "Customers can click down all the necessary options they need to build a complete server," Fay says. "So if they want a Web server, a SQL Server and an app server, with three Intel compute nodes, they can build that on the fly-and, in real time, get a nice quote ready to go. It's easy to do, and it's very helpful."

    The Final Word
    Intel's Modular Server offers your SMB customers enterprise-class server and storage capabilities at a price they can handle. In addition, the virtualization and easy-to-use management GUI should make it a snap for most of your customers to administer this offering on their own, saving both of you time and money.

    About the Author

    Joanne Cummings is principal writer and editor for Cummings Ltd., a freelance editorial firm based in North Andover, Mass.

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