ConSERVERative spending

Despite a global trend which is seeing enterprises move off their Unix-based servers, developing regions are balancing out the market with their Unix spends. Colin Edwards asks why there is such a conservative approach.

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By  Colin Edwards Published  May 1, 2007

On a world-wide basis Unix is passed its sell-by date. What has been the standard operating system for large servers for the last two decades, is coming under pressure in the US and Europe to curl up and die.

"But when you look at the more developing regions, where they are still building out infrastructure, it is very relevant in areas such as telcos and government. It is still very relevant here and these are growth areas. They are looking for big iron solutions rather that growing with an Intel-based or alternative platforms," says Jon Hardcastle, a Gartner analyst specialising in server research.

"It is really quite conservative here," says Hardcastle who was visiting server vendors in Dubai recently.

"You tend to think that new development areas, such as this region, are open to new technologies, but at the same time there is very often less of a skills base sometimes, and you tend to get more conservative buying patterns," he says.

According to Hardcastle, the Unix market has been doing relatively well since a slump in 2002.

"It has been pretty stable for the last four to five years. The weakness in the U S and Western Europe Unix markets has been balanced out by the Middle East, African and Asian/ Pacific markets which have been quite strong," he says.

"Long term, however, if people in emerging regions are going to buy proven solutions (ie Unix) and at the same time people in developed regions are moving to different platforms, they aren't going to get the best solutions."

In line with the region's Unix trend, Sun Microsystems' sales have been particularly strong in the Middle East, according to Hardcastle commenting on latest sales figures released by Gartner for servers.

"Sun is improving. Sun has been very strong in MEA. They have sorted through some of their product line they have a more competitive product line and it certainly looks better for them going forward."

Despite Sun's performance globally and regionally, the server market as a whole is static and according to Gartner's latest server report revenues at leading vendors such as HP and Fujitsu Siemens are dropping. Even so, one should not read too much into this because unit sales are rising.

"We had a slower Q4. It slowed down towards the end of the year, which we were expecting. The market has been strong for a couple of years now. But you can't expect it to grow year on year. We have been expecting it to slow down somewhat.

"We have been seeing a steady rise of virtualisation (a solution that allows users to maximise server utilisation by enabling more than one application and operating system to be run on a single x86 server rather than running different applications on several servers) It is bound to have a dampening effect on the volumes of servers sold."

Hardcastle believes server sales will continue their upward trend once people have deployed virtualisation where possible, though says that step adjustment could take a few years to work through. Currently, though, the trend is server consolidation as it has been found that server utilisation is as low as 8%.

Although the cost of hardware has fallen, the cost of managing devices continues be a huge problem. Virtualisation, being flexible and in an automated environmet can help.

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