Q

Brand name or white box server for virtualization?

There are no technical reasons to choose a particular brand for your server hardware, but consider the risks before you buy a white box server.

When virtualizing, is it better to select a server from a big-name vendor, or can I use a white box server?

There is no technical reason to prefer a name-brand vendor over a generic white box server when it comes to choosing hardware for virtualization. As long as the workload's system requirements are met, either server (of adequate design) should be capable of supporting the workload. However, the choice of server brand involves more than just a measure of hardware.

It is important to evaluate factors like a vendor's reputation, expertise and product roadmap. Shop around, ask questions and discuss experiences with technical peers at conferences and user groups. For example, many organizations rely on vendors for on-site maintenance and service, so a server vendor that cannot reliably provide better than 24-hour on-site service might not be the best option. Similarly, a vendor looking to shift away from x86 platforms in order to focus on ARM or Power architectures might not be the right choice for dedicated x86 organizations.

Look at the technical issues involved in system integration -- heterogeneity -- between new and existing systems. An organization that has standardized on name-brand servers might have trouble integrating white box systems into the systems management platform. For example, imagine a scenario in which a Dell shop is using integrated Dell Remote Access Controller (iDRAC) management or a Hewlett-Packard shop is using Integrated Lights-Out (iLO) management. Certain management features and capabilities accessible by name-brand managed systems might be unavailable to newly added white box or name-brand systems from differing vendors.

The potential loss of management insight can be a critical deal-breaker for new servers. This is one of the reasons that converged infrastructure platforms have grown in popularity over the last few years. These hardware platforms allow organizations to acquire pre-integrated and optimized servers, network and storage components from a single vendor.

This was first published in July 2014

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