Gateway 955 vs. IBM xSeries 335 Server line comparison

I was tasked recently with comparing our main server line, the low-end “pizza box” server — IBM xSeries 335.

Gateway 955

2x Intel XEON 3.2 gHz
1024 PC2100 (2x512MB)
2×73 GB 15k Ultra320
LSI 2 Channel RAID (integrated)
3 YR, 3yr/4hour on-site 7×24
Dual 10/100/1000 integrated NIC’s
2 PCI-X slots
Fixed Rail Kit included
Gateway Manager – aka LANDesk
Raritan KVM – $160
$5327

IBM xSeries 335

2x Intel XEON 3.2 gHz
1024 PC2100 (2x512MB)
2×73 GB 15k Ultra320
LSI 2 Channel RAID (integrated)
Dual 10/100/1000 integrated NIC’s
2 PCI-X slots
3 YR, 3yr/4hour on-site 7×24
Fixed Rail kit included
Integrated KVM Cable Chaining
Integrated ASM card with ISM connector
IBM Director, RDM
$5695

Product Notes:

1. Product Consistency – From other Gateway customers experience, Gateway servers have little product or internal part consistency within the same model #. Motherboard and RAID adapter models (and drivers) will change without warning. Maintaining a driver base for a model number is much more difficult.
2. Gateway offers the 3rd HD slot as swappable with the CD-ROM and floppy combo drive (IBM has 2 HD and fixed CDROM/floppy). Gateway also offers 6 DIMM slots (vs. 4 DIMM slots in IBM). This increases the storage and RAID capability of the Gateway at the expense of having a CDROM/floppy – generally nece
3. IBM includes integrated-cable chaining ability into all the IBM x335 to reduce the need for an external KVM solution for each server.
4. IBM includes an integrated Advanced Server Management card into each server. It can be tied into an ASM network, and get additional out of band remote management capabilities.
5. IBM Director features greater hardware layer integration of reports, such as device driver vs. raid firmware incompatibility levels and ISM network (like ROM-based and light-path diagnostics).
6. IBM features ChipKill memory technology to immediately redirect memory-writes from bad memory banks – greater sophistication than ECC memory scrubbing in Gateway.
7. Gateway features front side monitor and USB connections.
8. The difference in a commodity server market (low-end 1U boxes) may not be as apparent as in high-end technology boxes like 4-way and 8-way boxes. The 1U market is much the same as the workstation market – the differentiation just isn’t as there. The price figure as opposed to feature is key in the market. One must consider the entire server range of a particular vendor to make accurate apples to apples comparison (that is if one wants to have a single server vendor for a company).
9. Prices reflect best attempt at comparative pricing between the two companies business models: direct to manufacturer model for Gateway and channel model for IBM. I am sure one could lobby for better pricing structure from both of the companies, but I did not want to test who was more hungry and willing to cut percentages for a sale today.
10. One final note in a recent AP article, Gateway stressed their low cost mantra at the annual shareholder meeting.

Gateway, which has posted losses in 13 of the last 14 quarters, used the shareholder meeting to once again embrace the low-cost mantra that turned around eMachines. “The low-cost producer will win in almost any business in this country,” chief financial officer Rod Sherwood told a subdued crowd of fewer than 100 people.

In less than three months, Gateway has closed its 188 stores and said it will cut the work force to 2,000 employees by the end of this year, down from 7,400 at the end of last year and 24,600 at the end of 2000. It said it would stop manufacturing its own computer lines, relying entirely on outside suppliers.

Inouye told reporters he would like to make Gateway as lean as eMachines.

Three thoughts came to my mind when reading this article and focus for the next year from Gateway. First, no where was it reported a renewed focus on the server line and making it profitable. Second, do you really want to have eMachines build your server? Do you really think eMachines focuses on quality and server line R&D to the extent HP or IBM does? Will a Gateway server differentiate at all from white box server manufacturer like Premio? Third, is a company with losses in 13 of the last 14 quarters financially stable enough to provide quality support in 3 or 4 years from now when the server’s life is winding down.

In the end, I recommended continuing with IBM xSeries servers, but also recommended if the company was truly serious in evaluating other server models based upon price structure to extend the evaluation acrossed multiple server performance points and include the two other competitive big server manufacturers, HP and Dell. Keeping in mind, virtualizing the servers with VMWare ESX2 and/or server consolidation program would ultimately be the cheaper road to take for the organization.

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