Server Hardware

Types of Server Hardware

Tower Servers

Tower servers are singular computers with the dedicated purpose of a server – they are housed in a standalone upright cabinet, or “tower”, much like the tower of a personal desktop computer.

Towers provide their own unique advantages. Because of the low interior component density, they are easier to cool than rack or blade servers. The encased design allows room for more hardware or drive installation if necessary.

While blade servers and rack servers feature neat, modular rack designs, tower servers are much less space efficient. A set of tower servers will be much heavier and space-consuming than their thinner counterparts. Cable management can be complicated and bulky, and the air cooling from tower fans can be noisy.

Tower server

Tower servers are very similar to desktop PCs, but can support more hardware and drives. Depending on your business need tower can grow as required from a single server to several hundred or even can be easily scaled up or down. This make them a good choice for small businesses. Tower servers be configured to support various network resources such as file storage / GIT hosting / other functions. They also support Active Directory / DHCP services.

Tower servers can grow with the business so they’re scalable and redundant. Their capacity & redundancy make them a good choice for businesses that need to support a large number of users. A tower server is complicated & takes up a lot of space but it also offers a wide range of applications . This makes it a good choice for small businesses & their IT departments which want to scale quickly. However, please consider the fact that these tower server may be an expensive option & may also require you to have a dedicated team in order to manage them properly for your business.

Choosing a tower server isn’t a decision to be made lightly. The right server will ensure a high level of security and performance for your business, making it an important investment. Tower servers offer many benefits such as minimising the risk of data breaches & third-party access. They’re also an excellent choice for law firms, medical practises and other businesses. Aside from security, tower servers are also easy to configure and manage.

  • A tower server resides within an upright cabinet that resembles a tower-style PC
  • These servers provide the benefit of easier cooling because they offer a relatively low component density
  • Tower servers, however, take up more space than other server types

Rack server

If you are looking for a server then rack servers are an excellent choice for your computing needs. These servers offer scalability / expandability / structural framework. The advantages of rack servers are that they are lightweight – easy to install and are flexible enough to fit into any environment. The benefits of rack server s are many and they are a good choice for mission-critical programmes. Below are some of the advantages of rack servers.

Rack servers are also a good way to consolidate server units . It provide the option of installing a network switch. It also allows your network managers to connect all servers through a single switch. Rack servers are also scalable & making it easy to add & upgrade hardware as per need. It can accommodate multiple hard drives & processors that needs to be stacked to maximise storage capacity. This makes rack servers a very flexible option for your business computing necessities.

The main components of a rack server include the central processing unit ( CPU). CPU is the heart of the server & gives instructions to the other servers in the rack. RAM stands for Random Access Memory and is the active data processing capacity of the server stack. Rack servers have the most slots for server memory, allow for future expansion. Racks are small and take up little space, making them ideal for utility closets. A rack also works well for routine maintenance.

  • Rack server are usually stacked right on top of one another
  • It is a big plus point when it comes to scalability
  • Also the stacked model helps in consolidating network resources and minimizing the floor space requirements

Blade servers

Blade Servers

Blade servers are chassis-based servers similar to rack servers, but the more stripped-down design allows for even more space efficiency than rack servers, among other key advantages.

These server systems are comprised of individual server “blades”, thin dedicated server boards that each have individual processing power, memory capacity and a simple modular design that allows for easy configurability.

Blade servers offer more processing power and ease of cable management than rack servers, but these advantages come with a larger price tag. If money isn’t a concern so much as efficiency and performance is, then blade servers are a very good option.

A blade server is a scaled-down version of a traditional server computer. Their modular design maximises energy efficiency while saving space and physical resources. Blade servers are ideal for small and medium-sized businesses looking to reduce their total cost of ownership. They offer the performance and storage capabilities of a traditional server at a fraction of the cost. However this is not at the expense of speed / performance. For this reason, they aren’t ideal for every business.

Blade servers were invented in the 2000s by Christopher Hipp and David Kirkeby, two former Compaq employees. Hipp – a former graphic designer where as Kirkeby – a computer engineer they both worked together to develop the first blade server. The two eventually patented their idea and began selling the product in 2001. Eventually, Hewlett-Packard and HP bought the design. Blade servers are now the most popular type of server for businesses.

In addition to hard drives – blade servers can also include network interface controllers. Some blades do also have host adapters for Fibre Channel storage systems. Some have a network interface built into the motherboard. However additional network interfaces can be installed by installing mezzanine cards. This way users can use as many network interfaces as they need without worrying about overloading the system. Please note that the number of ports & features can vary. Blade servers are recommended for small or medium enterprises & can be cost effective alternative for larger IT departments.

  • Blade servers are compact devices that house multiple thin, modular circuit boards
  • Invest into blade servers to maximize your network storage and computing capabilities

Mainframes

If you are thinking about upgrading your server hardware; then consider the benefits of mainframe servers. Not only they are designed for transaction processing but also many mainframes have two layers of virtualisation – including logical partitions & virtual machines . The IBM zSeries – for example it offer two levels of virtualisation. In some cases; customers run two machines / one fully active & the other in a backup data centre. It allows them to maximise system performance without having any additional costs.

In the business world these mainframes are often used for complex / data-intensive workloads. These include real-time, interactive banking and OLTP. But after hours, banks run batch jobs that can include customer statements, daily totals, interest calculations, reminders and marketing emails. These tasks require large amounts of CPU and storage which mainframes excel at. In addition to business applications, mainframes can also handle terabytes of data. This makes them ideal for enterprise resource planning and online entertainment delivery.

Although mainframes are a highly specialised form of computer hardware, they’ve numerous advantages. For example, they can run financial models on a much smaller scale than traditional computers. This means they are cheaper to deploy. In addition to this they allow for faster processing. As demand for mainframes declined, they were eventually replaced by personal computers. As a result, their market share declined. Mainframe installations were usually reserved for government and financial services mainly.

  • Mainframes offer the ability to support large volumes of simultaneous transactions and heavy I/O loads
  • Financial services firms conducting concurrent, real-time transactions are among the typical mainframe customers
  • The primary drawbacks to mainframes are their size.

What Is a Server Cluster?

server cluster is a unified group of servers distributed and managed under a single IP address. This setup ensures higher availability, proper load balancing, and system scalability.

Each server is a node with its own storage (hard drive), memory (RAM), and processing (CPU) resources. For instance, a two-node cluster configuration means that if one physical server crashes, the second will immediately take over. This process, known as failover clustering, helps you avoid downtime. 

Ideally, you use multiple web and app nodes to guarantee hardware redundancy. This kind of architecture is known as a high-availability cluster. It helps prevent downtime if a component fails.

This is especially true if the operating system fails, which does not have redundancy in a single server. Since there will be no site failures, your users will not even know that the server crashed.

There are two usual types of server clusters – manual and automatic. Manual clusters are not an ideal solution since the manual configuration of a node to the same data IP and address comes with downtime. Even a 2 to 5-minute downtime could be expensive or possibly critical. On the other hand, automatic clusters let you configure software ahead of time. This type of cluster setup automatically carries out the server switch.

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Why Are Server Clusters Deployed?

Businesses often deploy a server cluster system to avoid downtime and maintain system accessibility, even when critical hardware fails. Cluster architecture is also ideal for businesses suffering from performance degradation. It lets them split off the database server to enable fast and uninterrupted performance for high-volume workloads.

What Are the Types of Server Clusters?

There are four types of server clusters. The type you choose depends on your business objectives and infrastructure needs.

1. High Availability (HA) Server Clusters

High availability (HA) clusters are an optimal choice for high-traffic websites. For example, you may use HA clusters for online shops or applications that need critical systems to remain operational for optimal, continuous performance. 

High availability clusters let you avoid single points of failure since they are built on redundant hardware and software. They are critical for load balancing, system backups, and failover. They are composed of multiple hosts that can take over if a server shuts down. This guarantees minimal downtime if a server overloads or fails.

HA clusters have two architecture types: Active-Active and Active-Passive.  

An active-active cluster means all nodes work simultaneously to balance loads. In contrast, an active-passive architecture means a primary node handles all workloads. Meanwhile, a secondary node remains on standby for downtime. 

The secondary server is also known as a hot spare or a hot standby since it contains the database from the primary node. As the hot standby is ready to take over if a component crashes, this is a lower-cost implementation than active-active.

High-availability clusters give you more reliability while also letting you scale easily. Not to mention, they offer more efficient maintenance and robust infrastructure security. With these clusters, you can save costs, minimize downtime, and create a better user experience.

2. Load Balancing Clusters

Load Balancing cluster refers to a server farm that distributes user requests to multiple active nodes. The main benefits include accelerating operations, ensuring redundancy, and improving workload distribution.  

Load balancing lets you separate functions and divide workloads between servers. This configuration helps maximize the utilization of resources. It uses load-balancing software to direct requests to different servers based on an algorithm. The software also handles outgoing responses.

Load balancers are used in the active-active configuration of a high-availability cluster. The HA cluster uses the load balancer to respond to different requests and distribute them to independent servers. The distribution can be symmetrical or asymmetrical depending on the configuration data and computer performance.

In an active-passive high-availability cluster, the load balancer monitors nodes’ availability. If a node shuts down, it doesn’t send any more traffic to it until it is fully operational.

Load balancing architecture also lets you use multiple links at the same time. This feature is especially useful in infrastructure that requires redundant communication. For example, this architecture is often deployed by telecommunications companies and data centers. The main benefits include cost reduction, high-bandwidth data transfer optimization, and better scalability.

3. High-Performance and Clustered Storage

High-performance clusters, also known as supercomputers, offer higher performance, capacity, and reliability. They are most often used by businesses with resource-intensive workloads.

A high-performance cluster is made up of many computers connected to the same network. And you can connect multiple such clusters to the data storage centers to process data quickly. In other words, you benefit from both high-performance clusters and data storage clusters and get seamless performance and high-speed data transfers.

These clusters are widely used with Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) technology. They process large amounts of data in real time to power projects such as live streaming, storm prediction, and patient diagnosis. For this reason, high-performance cluster applications are often used in research, media, and finance.

4. Clustered Storage

Clustered storage consists of at least two storage servers. They let you increase your system’s performance, node space input/output (I/O), and reliability. 

Depending on business requirements and storage demands, you can opt for a tightly or loosely coupled architecture.

A tightly coupled architecture is directed at primary storage. It separates data into small blocks between nodes. 

In contrast, a self-contained, loosely coupled architecture offers more flexibility. But it doesn’t store data across nodes. In a loosely coupled architecture, performance and capacity are limited to the capabilities of the node storing the data. Unlike tightly coupled architecture, you can’t scale with new nodes.

Benefits of Server Clustering

A clustered environment helps you manage hardware, application, and website failures. In other words, this environment ensures uptime and availability. By saving engineering efforts, it can drastically reduce costs associated with system recovery.

Put simply, investing in server clusters lets you save money in the long run.

Flexibility and Scalability

An individual server handles everything from the network connection to storage for a business. By deploying a multi-server architecture with clustering capabilities, you can significantly improve the flexibility and scalability of that server. 

In other words, clustering lets you scale one server to handle the increasing resource demand. Not to mention, it’s simpler for businesses to deploy an additional node to an existing cluster. If you have a managed dedicated server, you can do so with a simple phone call. 

Improved Availability and Performance

Another motivation driving investment in cluster solutions is performance. Besides providing hardware redundancy and ensuring uptime, a clustered environment can improve performance. 

In particular, a cluster with a dedicated database server can improve website or application speed. This setup lets you improve performance while increasing support for simultaneous connections.

If you comply with regulations such as PCI-DSS, server clusters become a practical necessity. This is especially relevant if you store financial information on a server that doesn’t connect to the Internet.

Reduced IT Costs

Companies need a network with built-in redundancy to ensure that customers can always connect to it. Besides that, the servers need to act as a single system. A clustered environment helps with that by preventing downtime and actually lowering costs by keeping the server fully operational. 

In other words, clustering lets you provide continuous uptime. As clustered servers are configured to work together on a single network, they reduce risk vulnerability while boosting network performance.

Customizable Infrastructure

Clustered server architecture can benefit businesses of all sizes. Specifically, it helps optimize processes, from networking services to the end-user experience. All these workloads are assigned to applications, and they get rolled out on separate servers that sync in real time.

Specifically, a business can customize the number of servers in a clustered environment. This customization allows for cost management while eliminating single points of failure. Using custom-built infrastructure ensures your environment is specifically engineered for your workload. 

A reputable service provider can help determine the most cost-effective architecture for you.

The True Cost of Downtime

According to Uptime Institute’s 2022 Outage Analysis Report, 80% of organizations report their data centers have experienced some outage over the past three years. For 60% of those outages, total financial losses were $100,000 or more. An unlucky 15% of respondents reported outage costs upwards of $1 million.

Besides financial losses, businesses reported facing reputational damage and compliance breaches.

Notably, in October 2021, Facebook’s network was unavailable for six hours. This network failure resulted in an estimated revenue loss of $99.75 million before users could get back online. That’s a loss of over $16 million per hour.

Now, most businesses won’t lose as much revenue as Facebook. But hourly downtime costs continue to rise and should be taken seriously.

The 2021 Cost of Data Breach Study by IBM and the Ponemon Institute reports that 91% of companies experience $300,000 or more in financial loss for every hour of downtime. When converted to minutes, that comes out to at least $4,998 per minute.

If there is one lesson to be learned from these events, it’s that CTOs and CIOs should be concerned about downtime. Not only does it add costs, but it can also damage the company’s reputation and negatively impact customer experience.

If your business requires reliable IT services, consider server clusters. They are a critical investment for long-term growth and performance. A clustered environment will boost performance and ensure infrastructure availability, scalability, and reliability.

Since the advent of new technologies globally, there has been a demand for improving data center optimization and efficiency. These advancements have led to the development of server clusters. A server cluster provides a user with several advantages over a regular data center server, such as improved scalability, high availability, increased reliability, and redundancy.

Clustering servers into multiple nodes provides users with reliability, optimized load balancing, system scalability, and a higher availability level than just one server. Clustered servers are used for applications that include printing, databases, file sharing, and messaging servers.

With clustered servers, your data is protected. These servers are programmed to function together in a cluster to maintain the consistency of cluster configuration over time.

See also: Latest Server Cluster Configurations Are Ready To Deploy

Before undertaking this systemic approach, it is important to understand server clustering capabilities. Server clustering works to protect against outages when used. Outages are caused by software failure, external events on the physical server site, and hardware failure. They are capable of dealing with issues like:

  • Application/Service Failures: Clustering servers can deal with application/service failures resulting from critical errors involving software or services that are crucial to the operation of the server or data center. However, application/service failures are also caused by other factors, and they are unavoidable. 
  • Hardware/System Failures: A server cluster also helps to deal with hardware failures that can affect the smooth running of your services. Hardware/system failures are caused by overheating, poor optimization, or the component reaching the end of its product lifespan. Hardware components affected in this process are CPUs, memory, power supplies, and hard drives. 
  • Site Failures: Site failures are widespread. Server clusters help deal with site-related problems caused by events outside the data center environment, such as natural setbacks, power disruptions, etc.

Types of Server Clusters

Servers are classified based on their node or clustering system fused with the device responsible for storing configuration data. There are three different types of server clusters.

  1. Single or Standard Quorum Cluster

A single or standard quorum cluster is one of the most commonly used server clusters. It consists of multiple servers that employ one or more cluster disk arrays for a single connection device known as a bus.

In essence, a server is responsible for managing and owning the individual cluster disk arrays within the cluster. The titular quorum is the system used in determining whether or not each cluster is online and uncompromised. Single or standard quorum clusters are efficient and straightforward to use. Each server has a vote to communicate to the central bus online.

However, the cluster continues to run as long as over 50% of the servers or nodes in a single quorum cluster are online and functional. If more than 50% of the clusters are not responsive, the cluster stops functioning until the specific node issue is resolved.

  1. Majority Node Set Cluster 

The majority node set cluster is similar to single quorum clusters. However, the majority node set cluster is more flexible when configuring remote servers. It works for servers that are located in different geo-locations.

Each node has its copy of the cluster’s configuration data which consistently flows across all nodes. However, the most node set clusters do not need a shared storage bus to function as each node has its storage system for duplicate quorum data locally.

  1. Single Node Cluster

A single node cluster contains a single node mainly used for testing. Since single-node clusters are used for testing purposes, they are best used as a tool for research and development of cluster applications. However, the use of a single-node cluster is limited by its lack of failover because it’s made with a single node which can cause the unavailability of cluster groups.

How Does Server Clustering Work?

A server cluster is a group of servers working together under a single IP address to provide users with higher availability, scalability, and reliability. Since server clusters are a group of servers connected to a single system, they work together to increase efficiency.

For instance, whenever one of the servers experiences a service outage, server clusters allow another server to take up the operation, redistributing the workload to another server before the user experiences an outage or downtime. In essence, server clusters help users reduce downtime and improve the efficiency of operation rather than shutting down.

In a clustered server environment, each server in a cluster is called a node. However, each node has its own RAM, hard drive, operating system, and CPU resources to command.

They are responsible for managing and owning their components, which means that work can easily be transferred to another server when one server within the cluster fails. Users can easily access server-related resources since their work is uninterrupted.