Most of the top-tier server vendors have made announcements within the past few weeks regarding 8-way Pentium III servers. Does this mean anything to Exchange Server planners and implementers?

We've all been waiting for and wondering about eight-processor Pentium III servers for the past 6 to 9 months. We've been waiting because some delays have occurred in getting this technology to market. We've been wondering because we haven’t been too certain about whether 8-way systems would matter for Windows NT and Exchange Server. In addition, as I have discussed on multiple occasions, issues around reliability and disaster recovery in our Exchange Server deployments have diverted our focus from scalability. Because the benchmark numbers for 4-way systems are unattainable for our deployments, why should 8-way systems matter?

My first thought is investment protection. If you're purchasing server platforms now, why not pay a bit of a premium and invest in 8-way systems today? For now, you could deploy the systems with 2 or 4 processors and be future-ready. If you have far-off dreams of Exchange Server consolidation or are planning to move quickly to the forthcoming Platinum release, you can invest today and get a longer server life span for your deployment. This approach depends on your philosophy. Early in my career, I developed this simple strategy: Buy at the top of the technology curve today to maximize the service life of your server tomorrow.

Performance and scalability are also important. Eventually, we'll conquer the Exchange reliability dilemma and be able to deploy larger user loads, consolidate servers, or just provide more services for the same user loads. In addition, Windows 2000 (Win2K) and the Platinum release will certainly not decrease our hardware requirements. Whether we need 8-way systems today or not, eventually there will be ample justification from a performance and scalability point of view. We've just seen the first Exchange Server Messaging API (MAPI) Messaging Benchmark (MMB) numbers released for an 8-way system and 31,000 MMBs is no simple feat. Because we know the MMB game to be a leap-frog contest of sorts, you can bet we'll see better numbers very soon as vendors discover how to tune these 8-way systems for NT and Exchange Server.

Don’t misunderstand me. I'm not trying to sell you 8-way systems (even though I do work for a hardware vendor). My point is that 8-way systems are a significant technology advance that will impact Exchange Server deployments. With Windows 2000 (Win2K) and Platinum coming down the pike and the demand for server consolidation, it would be worth your time to get up to speed on 8-way technology that is available from your server vendor. For more information, see Intel’s Web site at http://www.intel.com/tech/work/server/eight.htm.