Datacenter Server Demand to be Vendor Driven

Intel-based machines are now running many applications previously reserved for Unix machines. Windows NT 4.0 extended the Intel box’s reach into network applications, but there are some applications that remain untouched by Windows or Intel. For the moment.

Microsoft Corp. ( is positioning its Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, scheduled for release this summer, to compete with large-scale database applications that are typically deployed on Unix-based systems. Whether a significant number of enterprises will choose to deploy Windows/Intel-based machines for these applications remains to be seen.

In the recent presentation "Windows 2000 in the Data Center – Big Iron Intel Servers," David Friedlander, an analyst at Giga Information Group (, predicts vendors, not users, will lead the charge toward Windows 2000-based data centers.

"Vendors are going to push this platform because it is a low-cost, high-profit proposition," he predicts. He sees a situation where vendors will create product lines that compete against existing product lines.

"Vendors are beginning to push the NT platform, particularly Datacenter, to bigger servers," Friedlander says. He points out that unlike Unix, the NT platform began as a desktop operating system and has been scaled up to larger and larger applications.

He points to the emergence of partitionable servers based on Intel Corp.’s ( processors that make multiple instances of an operating system usable in a single enterprise server. In addition, Microsoft addressed issues, such as support for large amounts of memory, that make Windows 2000 usable for high-volume applications.

These factors contribute to the potential of Windows 2000 on Intel machines grabbing some market share from Unix systems in the data center market. Until now, issues such as scalability and reliability discouraged vendors and users from creating Wintel data centers. "NT was never really able to compete with Unix," Friedlander says.

If Wintel systems gain a foothold in the data center, it may be for the same reason it dominates the desktop: standardization. Friedlander points to the fact that there is no clear leader in Unix systems, making each implementation unique. This can cause staffing and interoperability issues in enterprises with Unix-based data centers.

"Windows 2000’s biggest strength is a common kernel," Friedlander asserts. Users can be confident that implementation of Windows 2000 Datacenter will be relatively uniform, having the same basic functionality as other Windows 2000 systems.

Vendors are already lining up to show how Windows 2000 can be used in high-end data centers. Unisys Corp. ( recently demonstrated a 16-processor version of its e-Action ES7000 Intel-based server, which will eventually support up to 32 processors. "Don’t try this at home," Friedlander cautions. He points out that Unisys and Microsoft had support from a plethora of vendors, giving them resources that the average enterprise administrator lacks.