The 10 Coolest Servers Of 2016 (So Far)

Servers Incorporated

Servers are the foundation of IT, the workhorses of the data center, and they're also the lynchpin of the burgeoning hyper-convergence market.

So far this year, the folks at VCE, EMC's hyper-converged infrastructure division, have sung the praises of Dell's FX line of servers, Lenovo has pumped up its ThinkServer to tackle software-defined workloads, and HPE has worked its ProLiant line into an appliance that solution providers call a game-changer.

Add to that list Cisco's release of its HyperFlex line of hyper-converged appliances based on its well-known UCS server, and you could say the first half of the year was when legacy server vendors jumped into hyper-convergence in earnest.

Click through to see the 10 coolest servers of 2016 so far.

(For more on the "coolest" of 2016, check out "CRN's Tech Midyear In Review.")

Dell FX

When one of the leaders in the red-hot hyper-converged infrastructure market is looking forward to getting its hands on your server, that's cool. Such was the case with the Dell FX server, which EMC's VCE business is eagerly anticipating. The two will come together once those companies complete their more-than $62 billion merger later this year.

At EMC World in May, VCE COO Todd Pavone discussed his interest in the FX series, saying, "You can see that being a good fit in the hyper-converged space, because in the hyper-converged space you want to get your price points lower, you want more configurability options, and having a robust server allows you to go do that. That's a huge opportunity."

Dell PowerEdge Update

Earlier this year, Dell updated its 13th-generation family of PowerEdge servers with support for Intel's latest Broadwell processor, along with several new management and software-defined storage capabilities the company said will help reduce the total cost of server ownership. The 13th generation of the PowerEdge features the new Xeon E5-2600 v4 processors, and Dell claims the update gives the servers a boost in performance between 20 and 30 percent. The PowerEdge R730 also got a new cooling system designed to keep it cool enough to use in the data center.

Lenovo X-Series

Lenovo refreshed its x3850 and x3950 X6 servers with new versions incorporating Intel Xeon E7-4800 and E7-8800 v4 processors. The company said the new processors are up to 39 percent faster than the previous generation, and pack memory up to 12 TB to tackle mission-critical environments like SAP HANA or Hadoop, as well as large virtualization projects, and big data and analytics workloads. The servers are built in what Lenovo calls a modular "compute book" design that allows them to be upgraded or maintained quickly and economically.

Lenovo's Big Think

Lenovo also rolled out the ThinkServer sd350, an ultra-dense, 2U four-node system designed for software-defined workloads. Lenovo executives said the sd350 can handle four times the customer apps in the same 2U rack space as a traditional server while taking 48 percent less time to deploy than competing servers. The aim of the sd350 is high efficiency, and Lenovo considers it the company's "next step" in its offerings for software-defined storage and software-defined data centers.

HPE ProLiant DL360

HPE updated its ProLiant Gen9 server portfolio with the introduction of Intel's newest Broadwell processor, as well as its new persistent memory technology, which allows the server's memory to serve as a high-performance storage tier. The latest versions of HPE's ninth-generation ProLiant DL360 also includes new management, security and storage capabilities aimed at helping customers tie on-premise data center infrastructure to the cloud for running mission-critical applications, the company said.

HPE ProLiant Easy Connect EC200a

Speaking of HPE's ProLiant line, solution providers last spring told CRN the new ProLiant Easy Connect EC200a hyper-converged hybrid IT appliance is a cloud services recurring revenue game changer. The product is being sold in one- and three-year subscription plans starting at less than $10 per month, per user. Solution providers told CRN the system would accelerate their move to a recurring revenue strategic service provider cloud business model. The initial Easy Connect platform includes the Microsoft Windows Server 2012 R2 server operating system, with Active Directory and Azure integration for single sign-on -- allowing users to single sign-on to any Azure application, including Office 365.

Cisco HyperFlex

Cisco made a splash in the hyper-converged infrastructure market with its HyperFlex solution, which consists of Cisco UCS servers and software-defined storage technology that Cisco developed through a strategic partnership with hyper-converged startup Springpath. While some may say Cisco is coming late to the market where startups Nutanix and SimpliVity are grabbing most of the attention, others expect HyperFlex to be a hit, even as it does battle with the likes of Nutanix and SimpliVity.

Skyport Systems Ultra Secure Servers

Skyport Systems, a startup focused on building ultra-secure servers, teamed up earlier this year with a Microsoft-aligned systems integrator to keep hackers from compromising Active Directory authentication controls. Together, Skyport and Ascent Solutions, based in Minneapolis, developed a turnkey implementation that aligns Microsoft's prescriptive model with how infrastructure and architecture work at both the systems level and a human level.

Dell DSS 7000

The new Dell DSS 7000 object storage server for Red Hat's Ceph 2 open-source, software-defined storage platform underlines Dell's commitment to offering customers a wide variety of product options. It will be slotted into Dell's product portfolio alongside EMC's ScaleIO, Isilon and Elastic Cloud Storage solutions after the companies complete their merger. The DSS 7000 is a high-capacity object storage server for Ceph environments. It's designed for scale-out cloud data centers, putting 90 3.5-inch drives in one 4U chassis, and delivering up to 720 TB of capacity, according to Dell.

Oracle VM Server for Sparc

The Oracle SuperCluster M7 engineered system is based on Oracle's VM Server for Sparc, Sparc M7 processor, and includes the Solaris operating system and the SuperCluster Management Toolset. The SuperCluster combines compute, networking and storage hardware with virtualization, operating system and management software in a complete, high-performance cloud infrastructure. The solution incorporates advanced processor-level security features, and works in a range of high-performance workload environments, from traditional ERP, CRM and data warehousing to e-commerce, mobile applications and real-time analytics.