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Your next server will be a box full of connected stuff, not a server

And if it runs Unix or a non-x86 chip, you'll need a good excuse

Servers are about to devolve into bespoke collections of compute and storage, says Gartner veep and distinguished analyst Andrew Butler.

Speaking last week's Infrastructure Operations & Data Centre Summit in Sydney, Butler said the days of buying a server to handle a specific workload are nearly gone. Instead, you'll soon shop for collections of components that can be assembled into rigs capable of handling different workloads at different times.

“Each buyer will end up with a different cocktail,” Butler said, a concept HP and Cisco currently call composable infrastructure. This idea suggests that the components inside a chassis have an API that lets a workload assemble itself the server it wants for the job. Butler says this vision is upon us, with the two aforementioned companies already offering the chance to “buy elements that deliver a compute experience largely dictated by you.”

Another big change he predicts is photonics inside the chipset, to speed communications over the motherboard. The likes of Intel, IBM and Oracle are working on this and HP has already delivered a photonics-capable Synergy rack systems.

One thing that won't change, Butler said, is the increasing dominance of x86 systems running Windows or Linux. Non-x86 servers are now just 16 per cent of the market. IBM's mainframes have the lion's share of that 16 per cent.

“There is no inflection point coming that will increase demand for non-x86 and Unix,” he said. Organisations migrating from those platforms, he said, will see Linux as their natural destination.

Also unlikely to change much, Butler feels, is who you'll shop from when acquiring servers. Dell and HP have a little more than half the market to themselves and that won't change. Cisco's solid fourth place won't slip.

“Lenovo's share has fallen quite significantly,” Butler said, as is to be expected after while it digests IBM's server unit and starts to set new directions.

“We are not despondent but believe the company needs to demonstrate it can build on the assets it acquired,” he said.

Taiwan and China's big ODMs will, he said, bid for your business with workload-specific boxes tailored to different needs. ®

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