Reducing Windows Server Costs: A Taste of What Is Possible

Analysis of News Events
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For years, the AS/400-iSeries server family has enjoyed a significant total cost of ownership (TCO) advantage over competitive systems, including Windows-based Intel (Wintel) servers. Today, however, technologies from Microsoft, IBM, and many other vendors are bringing substantial TCO improvements to the Wintel environment. If you own multiple Wintel servers, this is one trend you can't afford to ignore.


Among the technologies that are reducing Wintel TCO, one of the least obvious yet most pervasive ones is the Windows operating system itself. When Microsoft unveiled Windows 2000 almost two years ago, it brought many features to the operating system that held out the promise of TCO improvements. These included better performance on a per-CPU basis, improved scalability on n-way systems, and greater reliability and system stability. Despite these improvements, many small and medium-size businesses have not yet upgraded to Windows 2000. Such firms have delayed upgrades over issues such as migrating to Windows 2000's Active Directory, upgrading to Windows 2000-certified releases of existing applications, and training the IT staff on new technologies.


Earlier this month, however, a new study from Aberdeen Group provided evidence that the TCO advantages of Windows 2000 could significantly outweigh any upgrade costs. The study, which examined companies with fewer than 500 employees that have upgraded from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows 2000, determined that the firms are realizing a three-year TCO savings of 38 percent because of the upgrade. While numerous factors contributed to the savings, the two major ones were improved server performance and reliability. With Windows 2000, the study participants were able to nearly double their computing workload on existing configurations and eliminate redundant hardware they had deployed due to Windows NT's instability.


Three-Year Windows Cost of Ownership Comparisons--Companies with 300 to 500 Employees

Windows NT 4.0
Normalized Annual Cost
Windows 2000
Normalized Annual Cost
Server Acquisition


OS Update Deployments
OS Support Agreement
Total Annualized Cost
Total 3-Year Average Cost

Source: Aberdeen Group


Wintel Server Consolidation--The Next Frontier


Whether you upgrade to Windows 2000 or stick with the release you have, there's a good chance you can benefit from another technology that's appearing in the Wintel environment: server partitioning. Through partitioning, companies can now split Wintel servers into multiple systems that can be managed under a single system console. This allows companies to consolidate multiple Wintel servers onto a single system, a move that can dramatically reduce TCO while boosting system manageability and recoverability.


Among the IT vendors that are pioneering Wintel server consolidation via partitioning, IBM is a clear leader. The computer giant has launched an initiative known as Enterprise X-Architecture that is introducing mainframe-based technologies--including partitioning--to the company's Intel-based xSeries servers. A primary vehicle for these enhancements is IBM's XA-32 and XA-64 chipsets, which integrate support for partitioning (among other features) on xSeries servers. At present, these chipsets allow companies to take xSeries servers that contain them (such as the Model x440) and physically partition them along hardware boundaries. In the x440, for instance, each partition must include at least one complete four-processor node and can only be incremented or decremented in complete nodes.


If you need greater granularity and flexibility than this, VMware offers a software-based solution called VMware ESX Server that allows you to split most 32-bit Wintel servers--from uniprocessors to eight-way systems--into logical partitions that use just a fraction of a CPU. Even better, VMware ESX lets you reconfigure and resize partitions "on the fly" without bringing down partitions. To top it off, you can run a mix of operating systems on each server that includes Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Red Hat Linux 6.2 and 7.x, and FreeBSD 4.3. Two months ago, IBM announced that it will use VMware ESX to bring dynamic logical partitioning capabilities to its Enterprise X-Architecture servers. While xSeries customers can already use VMware to achieve such partitioning, the agreement ensures that VMware will be enhanced to support xSeries servers with more than the current eight CPUs. This high-end version of VMware ESX will likely ship in the third quarter of this year.


If you're an AS/400-iSeries owner, of course, you have another option for Wintel server consolidation: the Integrated xSeries Server (ISS). In application environments where you only need a uniprocessor, this "server on a card" may prove to be the best option you have for improving your TCO. By consolidating such smaller workloads onto the ISS and larger ones onto partitions in freestanding servers, you could realize substantial savings.


While the efforts of Microsoft, IBM, and VMware to improve Wintel's TCO are substantial, they're only part of a broader effort by many vendors to make Windows more manageable, reliable, and scaleable--and therefore more affordable. If you're an AS/400-iSeries owner, you know that such improvements can reduce costs. In tough economic times like these, you may want to take what you know and apply it to those Wintel servers just down the hall.


Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology. You can reach him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Lee Kroon
Lee Kroon is a Senior Industry Analyst for Andrews Consulting Group, a firm that helps mid-sized companies manage business transformation through technology.


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