2009 Channel Contenders: Servers3:00 PM EST Wed. Jul. 29, 2009
Almost two-thirds of solution providers chose Hewlett-Packard or IBM as their primary server vendor in CRN's 2009 Channel Contenders study, but solution providers are also looking for alternative vendors for better price and product performance. The Channel Contenders research sought to identify the top vendors that solution providers choose as alternatives to market leaders. Here's a look at 10 contenders nipping at HP and IBM's heels.
The smart money says that Dell's status as the top fallback offering for server resellers leading with the likes of Hewlett-Packard and IBM has nowhere to go but up. The Round Rock, Texas-based company is already considered one of the Big Four server makers along with HP, IBM and Sun -- and the latter pair's hardware businesses have had challenges. What's more, Dell's newfound commitment to the channel is still in its early stages, so expect more VARs to start leading with Dell products in the coming months.
Sun Microsystems is still a major player in servers, both in the channel and in the IT industry writ large. But Oracle's proposed acquisition of Santa Clara, Calif.-based Sun makes it tough to predict what the company's server business and channel relationships will look like in the future. Sun's tardiness with Intel Nehalem servers compared to other Tier 1s did not go unnoticed, and Cisco's surprise entry into the segment also puts pressure on Sun.
Intel already is inside the vast majority of servers sold by HP, IBM and Dell partners. But with the help of its world-class white box channel, Intel just might be its own best Tier 1 partner, so to speak. The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip giant works closely with system integrator partners large and small to put together validated systems built around Intel components, and the company has impressed the channel with the Intel Modular Server package released in early 2008.
Lenovo is a powerhouse in the PC channel and its server business is beginning to pick up similar momentum. Still, nobody is going to confuse the Morrisville, N.C.-based company with the likes of HP, IBM or Dell just yet. And so far, Lenovo isn't trying to match the breadth of data center products offered by its larger competitors -- the company mainly entices partners with a single product line, its SMB-targeted ThinkCenter towers.
Super Micro is first in partners' hearts among the emerging class of component vendors that also make PCs and servers (notwithstanding Intel, which is a bit of a special case). Super Micro benefits from its close relationship with Intel, developing some of the first available motherboards for the chip giant's next-generation Nehalem processors.
Acer, probably best known as the market leader in netbooks, has a small but interesting lineup of servers under its Altos brand, including a tower and rack mounts in 1U and 2U flavors. But none of our surveyed server resellers listed Taiwan-based Acer as a vendor they lead with on customer engagements, so you have to wonder if Acer servers are entering some conversations as an afterthought rather than as a robust second option.
Fujitsu sticks out here because its server reseller channel is actually quite a bit larger than some other vendors on the Channel Contenders list. Fujitsu's main Unix-based server families play best to specific, specialized engagements and may not always be a viable alternative to the industry-standard products most smaller VARs are leading with.
Apple's appeal to the channel certainly grew over the past few years as discontent with Microsoft's Windows Vista operating system reached a crescendo. It may be odd to some to see the Cupertino, Calif.-based vendor ranked as a server contender here, but Apple's Xserve systems have their niche.
NEC's full array of enterprise, rack and blade servers don't have the penetration into North American markets that they do in Asia. The Tokyo-based company has as storied a history as any vendor on this list -- founded in 1899, NEC is a year older than Fujitsu and just 10 years younger than IBM.
As with Super Micro, Tyan is a motherboard maker that's gaining traction in the channel as a vendor of finished servers. Unlike Super Micro, this Taiwanese company uses processors from Advanced Micro Devices along with chips from Intel to give partners a bit more choice to take to customers.