Microservers – What are they, and who needs them?
A microserver is just what the name implies – a much smaller, more compact computer with server-like functionality. Intel first started working on the concept back in 2009, introducing a reference design for what it saw as a new server category that called for 16 hot-swappable microserver nodes squeezed into a 5U rack.
The concept has since evolved to incorporate a much broader range of hardware, to the point where today, all a computer needs to qualify as a “microserver” is a motherboard with multiple LAN ports, a power supply, processor, RAM, and space for a handful of hot-swappable SATA hard drives inside an attractive and compact chassis. HP’s ProLiant Microserver range is a good example of the concept.
The appeal of a microserver is a combination of form factor, cost and functionality. Microservers are intended to do small, specific jobs, either within a datacentre or inside a business that perhaps can’t afford or doesn’t need more powerful server hardware, and they use power-efficient and affordable components to help keep costs low.
IDC researcher Reuben Miller said of microservers that “There are a large number of companies that are trying to cut costs, and microservers use less power, need less cooling and take up less space. They are not designed for high-end, mission-critical workloads or running large database applications, but they are ideal for web hosting, video steaming, downloads, social networking, or perhaps handling corporate logins. By segmenting your workload out you can make substantial savings.”
Thanks to the fact that microservers make use of hot-swappable drive cages and can accommodate multiple drives in various RAID configurations, a common use is storage-related functions. Small businesses can employ one or a number of microservers for backups, for centralised (and non-cloud) file storage, a multimedia source for serving videos to customer-facing screens or even a combination of all three.
And because microservers are built on server hardware, albeit somewhat cut-down server hardware, remote management functionality is both extensive, and built in. The same applies to health monitoring functions, which keep an eye on component status and alert administrators when temperatures are out of normal ranges and when component failure is either likely or imminent.
Home uses too
Even home users can make use of microservers, and the good news is they’re priced aggressively enough to appeal to that notoriously price-sensitive market. Common at-home uses include “download server”, which is great for leaving on 24/7 downloading game updates and whatever else strikes the user’s fancy, and a multimedia storage location that can feed music and video to any DLNA-certified devices in the home.
Suited to simple but important tasks
And as microservers use low-power components, they won’t contribute much to the electricity bill. They can also be set up for access over the home network quite easily for file and photo storage and OS backups. Other simple tasks like perhaps a network authenticator for the security-conscious users out there can also be easily set up.
Essentially, microservers are useful, affordable low-power servers that can be set up for a variety of server-lite functions, and are useful in home, office and even datacentre environments thanks to their flexible configuration options.
For a tailor-made solution for you or your customers, please contact Gert Howes, HPE product manager at Tarsus Technology Group.