Upgrade your IT infrastructure

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Many growing enterprises eventually need to decide whether to scale up or scale out when upgrading their IT infrastructure. For enterprises that require a scale-up solution, Windows 2000 Datacenter Server, combined with the latest enterprise-class Intel-based servers, is now a viable option in a market traditionally dominated by costly UNIX and mainframe platforms.

The Microsoft Datacenter program combines hardware, software, and service. Thus, purchasing a Datacenter solution is much more like buying a mainframe than were any of your previous experiences in the Wintel world. Indeed, Microsoft has borrowed from the sales, service, and support models of "big iron" vendors such as IBM. From the hardware side, Unisys boldly refers to its 32-processor Unisys e-@ction Enterprise Server ES7000 server as an Intel mainframe.

If a Datacenter solution is what your enterprise needs, you have a short list of qualified OEMs to choose from. Of the nine Datacenter solution providers in the world, seven provide their products to the US market. (Hitachi distributes exclusively in Japan, and Bull Infrastructure & Systems distributes exclusively in Europe.) Because each vendor must satisfy Microsoft's certification process requirements, few points of distinction exist between certified OEMs. For example, Datacenter-certified vendors must provide their customers with a single point of contact that's backed by a support team made up of Microsoft representatives and vendor engineers. So, you can expect a certain level of support regardless of the OEM you choose.

Only one hardware platform can fully exploit Datacenter's capacity to support 32 processors and 64GB of memory: the Unisys ES7000. If you need the performance and high availability of the ES7000, you must purchase it directly through Unisys or one of its OEM resellers: Compaq, Dell, Hewlett-Packard (HP), Fujitsu, or Hitachi. If you don't require that level of hardware, you can choose between the Datacenter vendors' certified 8-way servers. Stratus Technologies' offering is an exception to Microsoft's Datacenter requirements, which stipulate that a server must support at least eight processors. Because of the built-in hardware fault tolerance in the Stratus ftServer 6500 4-way box, Microsoft declared the product Datacenter-certified.

The distinguishing characteristics between the OEMs listed in this Buyer's Guide reside primarily in the value-added services that they can provide your organization. Vendor-provided consulting services can help you integrate, tune, maintain, and modify both your hardware and software. The value of such services isn't easy to quantify. If your organization has established a relationship with a vendor in this Buyer's Guide, you know the quality of service you can expect from that vendor. If you are actively shopping for a vendor, choose the vendor whose services best fit your organization's needs. In any case, you should be prepared to adopt and strictly adhere to the recommended best practices of Microsoft and the OEM you choose.

The vendor-provided prices are for systems with differing amounts of memory and processors. Typically, you would also add disk storage to each unit. We asked all Datacenter vendors to provide information about their products. Seven out of the nine Datacenter OEMs have supplied information for the Buyer's Guide. For more information about the product offerings from Fujitsu and Hitachi, contact those vendors directly.