Is big iron back? Did it ever leave?

If you haven't read Christopher Hoff's "Rational Survivability " blog, you're in for a treat. He's a bourbon and whiskey-drinking, red meat-eatiing, cigar-smoking security coot.

If you haven't read Christopher Hoff's "Rational Survivability " blog, you're in for a treat. He's a bourbon and whiskey-drinking, red meat-eatiing, cigar-smoking security coot. (He's even pissed off Simon Crosby too.) In his latest post, Hoff asks whether big iron is dead, or whether it ever even left? His point is that while we've been focusing on smaller servers working together as one, distributed loads, etc., virtualization is changing that game and now we want the big stuff again.

I've seen this first-hand over the past ten years. I remember that people used to buy 8U, 8 Pentium Pro processor servers all the time. But then it seemed like everything switched over to dual processor, 5GB RAM servers. (Especially considering you could usually buy four 1U servers for much less than single larger server that had the same amount of processors / RAM.

But now that we're virtualizing everything, I guess all that money on things like RAIDed RAM is finally worth it again?

Join the conversation


Send me notifications when other members comment.

Please create a username to comment.

Are we buying bigger iron because it can do more with new technology, or are we using the technolgy and as a result using the big iron?


My friend, you just blew my mind!

Across the board, I'm not
sure who's wagging who, but big iron was out of our arena for a while. 
Now it's back because we can use the technology to our advantage, so I
think in our case, the wagging is being done the right way.

flip side, though, is the technology constant where the software and
hardware do this back and forth dance between program features (or more
sloppy code!) and the ability to execute those features quickly.  Thing
is, that's constant across the board, not just when considering big vs
small iron.  It applies to servers, PC's, video games, and even cell
phones.  Hell, even things that aren't though of as devices that use
some sort of computing power are involved - things like cars, TV's, and
Blu-Ray DVD players are all playing the game nowadays.

It's almost as if there's no wagging going on at all, and more like a dog just chasing it's tail.  
The rebirth or come-back of big iron is just temporary. Smaller and more efficient hardware will replace all of this as our miniaturization and nano technology gets better and better. Eventually, we will have powerful servers with several tera FLOPS of computing power and several terabytes of memory and solid state storage. These will be even smaller than a standard computer slim case. And they will become much smaller later on.

Sure, but then someone will make software that requires more horsepower, so some folks will still need big iron.  You could just as easily say that consolidation to smaller servers is temporary as well. 

It's all based on use-cases, really, and those keep changing.  Nobody even thought about running 25 or 30 (or 40 or whatever) copies of Windows XP on the same box simultaneously 6 or 7 years ago, because there was no hardware that could do it.  At that time, it was databases chewing up the big iron.  So sure, in another 6 or 7 years we'll all be able to run wicked-fast VDI environments on super small servers with solid state drives, but by then we'll have come up with some even more resource intensive thing that requires the big iron.


I think the next version of blades... say in 5 years time will be where its at. Big iron via modularity, grow it as you need it.