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Technical Insight: Are x86 Servers the Right Platform for Running Mission Critical Applications?

White Paper by Eric Slack.

Enterprise data centers are charged with supporting the most critical applications in the company, typically the ones that can’t go down. To achieve this, IT organizations have traditionally used mainframes (and many still do), along with enterprise-grade server platforms that typically ran UNIX on proprietary RISC hardware. These systems were designed to run most of the important applications in the data center and keep them running through component and subsystem failures, human error and maintenance/upgrade windows. These servers were also designed with the headroom to scale non- disruptively as the enterprise grew, without ‘box swaps’ or ‘forklift upgrades’.

Servers based on the Intel x86 architecture gained initial acceptance in IT for use as file and print servers and other less critical applications; however, recently the use of x86-based servers has steadily gained popularity in the technology industry due to their relatively low cost. These standard-architecture platforms are now being used for everything from specialty software appliances to the ultra-low-cost storage infrastructures supporting most of the ‘hyper-scale’ cloud data centers. But can x86 server platforms be used to create truly enterprise-grade compute infrastructures and support mission critical applications? In this paper we will discuss what “enterprise-grade” really means and how different x86- based server architectures stack up against the requirements of an enterprise data center.

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February 1, 2016

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