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Windows server hardware selection: choosing the right server

Choosing a server can be a difficult process; this book excerpt tries to demystify the purchasing steps.

The following tip is excerpted from Chapter 1, Choosing your server, from of our expert e-book, "Windows servers and storage." This chapter touches on aspects of server hardware, beginning with architectures--systems components and interconnects -- and ways to build servers from these components. 

Choosing your server

A server is such a fundamental component of an information-processing system that its operational state directly affects a company's ability to run the business. Your server selection, installation and implementation is an important challenge.

In deciding which servers to invest in, first carefully consider your applications. Start by making a thorough list of the applications your company needs to run properly. Then talk to the likely users of those applications.

When looking at those applications, you generally have two broad categories:

  • "Services" applications provide services such as e-mail server, Internet access, intranet facilities and (when needed) an extranet capability.
  • "Domain-specific" applications handle business-oriented work. These applications will themselves fall into one of two categories: Externally-acquired free or commercial products -- such as SAP AG and Oracle Corp. applications -- and custom-built applications developed specifically for the company.

Because the operational success of the business depends on at least some of these applications being available 24/7, the next step is to grade the applications in terms of business criticality. Use this information as a driver to decide what you will need in terms of high-availability hardware.

Beyond the applications, you should also look at how you will update the server system, including the hardware, applications and the operating system. Some updates can be done without interruption, while others cannot. For example, replacing a hard disk should not require the server to be brought down. Identify the types of backups that you will need and how often they must be done.

Also, look at which upgrades or other maintenance will be needed for the connected workstations, such as operating system upgrades, new software releases and capacity upgrades. We will review how different server types may match your individual needs in Chapter 3.

About the authors:
René J Chevance is an independent consultant. He formerly worked as chief Scientist of Bull, a European-based global IT supplier.

Pete Wilson is Chief Scientist of Kiva Design, a small consultancy and research company specializing in issues surrounding the move to multi-core computing platforms, with special emphasis on the embedded space. Prior to that, he spent seven years at Motorola/Freescale.

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