Virtualisation and widespread cloud adoption means that servers play a more crucial role in the enterprise than ever. Here are some key trends that will influence how you deploy servers in your business in 2014.
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Hardware keeps getting cheaper
Hardware prices falling while capacity improves has been a consistent trend throughout computing history (thanks, Moore's Law). The most recent server sales statistics from Gartner for 2013 underscore the trend -- sales have increased but revenues for server manufacturers have declined:
The year of 2013 demonstrated growth in shipments with an increase of 2.1 percent, but revenue declined 4.5 percent with varying geographic results. x86 servers continued to produce some growth as the predominant platform used for large-scale data center build-outs, particularly in North America. Emerging regions like Asia/Pacific and Latin America also added to the growth for the year.
The fact that server sales have increased at all is slightly remarkable, given that virtualisation means we can draw far more from each individual server. And while those falling revenues are a challenge for hardware manufacturers, the lower prices are good news for your IT budget.
More Australian cloud data centres
The argument over whether or not you're better off using an Australia-based data centre for cloud computing continues to bubble along. It's not invariably the case that it's a legal requirement, but many businesses continue to err on the side of caution. Recent changes to the Privacy Act that require companies to disclose when they store customer data offshore might also make some businesses rethink their approach.
Legal issues aside, the other main reason for using an onshore data centre is latency. For some applications, the lost time in sending data offshore can be a deal breaker.
The biggest development on this front in 2014 will be Microsoft's opening of its local Azure data centre, with services in Sydney and Melbourne. That will match global players AWS, which has had a local presence since November 2012, and Rackspace.
More embedded servers and variant designs
Embedded single-purpose servers aren't a new development either, but we're likely to see new approaches to the sector this year. At CES in January, Intel showed off Edison, a dual-core system on a device the size of an SD card. The lack of high-speed IO means this won't suit many workloads, but there's a potential role in branch offices and other scenarios. In a related vein, low-powered X86 server platforms such as HP's Moonshot are also an option to consider, especially for well-understood workloads.
Xeon E7 V2 ahoy!
On the other hand, if you want more grunt, the second iteration of Intel's Xeon E7 made its official debut in mid-February. Intel claims an a doubling of performance on the previous generation. The main reason you might want all that extra power? Pouring through reams of data. 21 manufacturers were offering Xeon-based servers at launch, so it's likely to be on the table if you're buying new hardware.
Evolve is a weekly column at Lifehacker looking at trends and technologies IT workers need to know about to stay employed and improve their careers.