back to article Supermicro's ability to enable should worry IBM and Lenovo

With 2015 drawing to a close and 2016 about to begin, it's time to reflect on the fact that the world never stops changing. The tech industry certainly constantly changes, and so here's one sysadmin's final view of the industry's movers and shakers. In part one (link here) I took a look at Amazon, Oracle and Microsoft. In part …

  1. W Donelson

    Nice report...

    ... good analysis ....

    Thank you.

  2. John Stoffel

    Supermicro rocks...

    I love the supermicro FatTwin systems. Simple, dense, cool running, big memory, big CPU, what's not to love? AND!!! They don't shaft you like HP does with an ILOM that shuts off the GUI once the OS boots unless you pay a bunch of money. I hate them. HP makes good gear, but they try to nickle and dime you to death for stuff that's just a bit flip away.

    No one runs their server from the ILOM unless they have to, but when you do it's critical. And when it costs another $300/host to add that feature, it's just crazy.

    For dense compute racks, and even ESX hosts, or heck any server you need, SuperMicro does the job. Why go elsewhere?


    1. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Supermicro rocks...

      They don't shaft you like HP does with an ILOM that shuts off the GUI once the OS boots unless you pay a bunch of money. I hate them. HP makes good gear, but they try to nickle and dime you to death for stuff that's just a bit flip away.

      No one runs their server from the ILOM unless they have to, but when you do it's critical. And when it costs another $300/host to add that feature, it's just crazy.

      Yes, I bought an HP MicroServer a few months back, great little system but they seem to go out of their way to gouge you. The ILO was a key selling point but to unlock it to the point it was genuinely useful they wanted as much as the server cost in license fees. Found a key generator on the torrent sites, ran in in a sandboxed VM, job's a good'un. Similarly the optical drive - it's a standard extra-slimline drive but with non-standard cable and a proprietary bracket. HP wanted £100, but a drive from Amazon, solder up a cable and half an hour's metal bashing to form a bracket and the job was done for £20 - you can work around them but why should you have to?

      Even then it's still an appliance because of it's integration. If Supermicro did something similar it'd be based around an ITX mobo so if in three years you need more umph you swap it out for something newer. Can't do that on the HP.

      OTOH that server cost me £120 plus drives after cash back. From memory that's around the starting price for Supermicro's IPMI equipped mobos, not servers. As the old adage goes, you pay your money and you make your choice.

    2. Netscrape

      Re: Supermicro rocks...

      Agreed. We have the newer atom based blades. Fantastic engineering and meets our needs perfectly.

      It has always amazed me how slow supermicro has been to catch on with people. I guess the buying cycle and process at lots of potential large organisations precludes then? It's always easier to get more from same place

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Err but...


    IBM relies heavily on providing IT services to enterprises.

    Whilst it is true that IBM does have a big Services division they also have a diverse software offering.

    I use at least two of them every day in my work.

    Without them 90%+ of the banks and telco's in the world would cease to function. A lot of their software runs on Windows, Linux, HP-UX, Solaris, AIX as well as Mainframes. This is one of their strong points.

    A lot of this software is developed here in the UK at IBM Hursley.

    And no I don't work for IBM.

    1. PassingStrange

      Re: Err but...

      Well. Until Project Waltz I *did* work for IBM, and indeed at IBM Hursley. Very probably I was working on one of those products you mention. And I'd have to say that I totally agree with the article. IT Services have been a critical IBM source of revenue for quite a while now, whilst the market for its cash-cow software products is (or certainly was at the time I last saw figures) slowly but steadily contracting. I have nothing but admiration for the quality of many of the technical folk who, even now, work in the IBM labs - but when was the last time that IBM developed (rather than bought) a truly new software product? Decades ago.

      Seen from the viewpoint of a mere grunt inside the company, IBM senior management seemed to have no "strategy" worthy of the name beyond pushing the share price at all costs, and amassing their personal stock options before moving on. Investment in people was near-invisible, and the overall atmosphere was pretty poisonous. From such things as I hear from my contacts inside the company, nothing much seems to have changed.

      IBM has, in my opinion, been on a long, slow slide into oblivion ever since the bean-counters took over from the techies in the 90s; the only real question in my mind is how long it can keep the cracks in the facade sufficiently papered-over to stop the market noticing.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Softlayer and Supermicro

    I think you missed a big item....

    Softlayer uses Supermicro for most if not all of their x64 boxes, and has a huge relationship with Supermicro.

    Also, IBM has not been about hardware, software, or services for quite a while. IBM's big push is about being a knowledgeable partner to big/critical customers.

    IBM may sell some hardware, IBM may sell some software, IBM may sell some services, but together, IBM sells a solution, and in many cases that solution may involve NON IBM products.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Softlayer and Supermicro

      The problem is you can only burn customers so many times (a lot more than once for most!) by contracting to provide a certain level of service then offshoring or downsizing the talent required to the point where your customer thinks you're more trouble than your worth.

      After being treated like a revenue stream for the duration of an outsource contract, customers are reluctant to accept further marketing promises about the Next Big Thing from IBM.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Softlayer and Supermicro

      IBM sells a solution.

      One that dissolves corporate IT into a cesspool.

      Anon only because I had to swim in that cesspool for 4 years too long.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    'Worth nothing is IBM's new Cognitive Business Solutions unit. '

    That's either a scathing criticism or the most poignant spelling mistake in some time.

    1. billse10

      Re: 'Worth nothing is IBM's new Cognitive Business Solutions unit. '

      A.C. - you beat me to it :)

  6. kcblo

    If you want to be a gigantic company, then you actually need revenue

    By selling a lot loss making PCs in order to become a 'BEHEMOTH', It is what HP exactly doing, The result is large scale layoff and probably corporate breakup.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I wonder what people have with SuperMicro.

    Maybe it looks cool, geeky or I don't know what, but they are so weak in manageability you really wonder how any reasonable sysadmin could choose them. Anybody with experience with their BMC will tell you that unless all you need to do is remotely power-off/on the system, their management boards are so poor and buggy you can't do anything meaningful with them. Emergency KVM using their KVM-over-IP is just non-functional on most of their BMC. Funny thing for example is how their BMC is non reachable during a long part of the system boot phase, meaning that if you want to access the BIOS for example or check your RAID firmware, you're screwed.

    The versioning for their BIOSes and firmware is so poor you just wonder if they know that there is software in there. Just go and have a look at their FTP site - it's just a dumping ground - good luck finding archived versions or even release notes for the latest release of a given BIOS/firmware. I'm not even talking about hardware quality control - the last replacement PSU I received from them tripped the breaker of the entire cabinet. No, really, I wanted to believe but have long lost faith in them.

    1. Een8nope

      The killer features supermicro has for us is customization and affordability.

      Being a small IT department with a small budget and rather specific needs, we do not fit the ideal costumer profile of mainstream vendors. Looking at the entry and mid-level server lines of HP and DELL, there are very have few choices of configurations and very little flexibility to fit 3rd party components.

      Hardware and construction quality is relative to experience. For example, in the last batch of HP servers we got, they came with damaged USB cables to the front panel, which was rather fun to figure out.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Everything you describe reminded me uncomfortably of IBM's x-series "IMM" controller, and worse, the follow-on "IMM2", which was prettier but slower and even more fragile. And this is before big blue dumped that product line on Lenovo.

  8. auburnman

    An end of year review for Lenovo that doesn't even mention Superfish once? Was the scandal more than a year ago?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    IBM Hardware is small

    Yeah, in the last quarter hardware was 1.5 billion out of $19.3. Supermicro powers Softlayer.

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