Andrew Moffitt

Greetings,

I wanted to make a couple of comments on the white box 2u server versus the Dell server, I've been a long time supporter of both the white box solutions, and Dell computers. Right now I'm with a fairly small yet growing company, and I'll explain why I made the choices I did, first off I went with Dell for our servers for a couple of reasons. First my budget said I had the lee-way to go that way if I so desired, second and this is probably the most important is that during the next 3 years if anything breaks/goes bad on the server I make a call to Dell and I'll have a replacement the next morning, with the white box I'll have to call the manufacture and go through a bunch of hoops and may end having to just buy a replacement to get up and running. Also 2 years from now you may still be using the same server (especially in a smaller company/department), but your white box computer breaks, where are you going to find a 700 MHz processor in 2 years (you might find one), so maybe you want to upgrade, but your mother board won't handle the 1.7Ghz that is out now, so now you need one of those also. I stand half a chance with Dell.

Now I may make the move to white box computers when we get bigger and we have more servers, or more to the point where each function is running on its own machine. Plus with this I can order 1 or 2 extra machines to keep for parts or for implementing new software/technology, plus it gives me the ability to keep everything the same, with Dell, 2 weeks from now the 2400 series may become the 2410 series with that new version of the 2MB onboard video and a new tweak to the 3com NIC, so now I have to keep 2 sets of bios upgrades, 2 sets of video and NIC drivers. With the white box, I have a lot more control. And lastly, with the white box I have the maximum amount of flexibility in terms of configuring the machine, if I want IDE hard drives for one machine, no problem just order them. On another machine I may want plain old SCSI 2, no big deal. I can go on and on with those.

Basically there are pro's and con's with each, with the Dell you are paying more for less options in a box that maybe of a little less quality, and you are paying for some of the Brand Name there, but for the most part Dell has fairly good service. Now with the white box is very customizable whatever you want you can get, at the very best quality, there are no compromises needed (to an extent). But one thing, if you are going to compare the white box to the Dell, you should make the white box equal to the Dell, you brought up the point that if you didn't want SCSI-3 you're out of luck with Dell which is true, but the Intel 1 GHz Dell machine with the 10k rpm SCSI 3 drives will outperform the white box by a good margin (and hence a $3500-4000 difference).

Regards,

Andrew Moffitt

 
Andrew,
 
You make excellent points. Clearly, there are reasons to choose one over the other on a case by case basis. And for that reason I didnít just choose to review a single box, but instead chose to compare and contrast the two schools of thought.
 
You are absolutely right to indicate that when you go out a few years, you may not be able to replace your old processor with an identical one in a white box solution; however, I believe you can mitigate the issues of white box over brand name by choosing a reputable firm that will recognize they canít replace just the processor, and will instead replace both the processor and motherboard (or whatever is necessary during the final year of a three year warranty). Clearly there is a risk with a second tier vendor, but Iíve also been on the receiving end of some bad news from Dell as well when they didnít have any of the part that I needed in stock and I had to wait more than a week (note: this was with a notebook, not a server...it is possible that I wouldnít have waited if it had been a server).
 
As for the performance difference between the Dell and the single processor white box with ATA/100 drives, the difference could be less than you think. However, any way you cut it, the Dell will be faster given the cache on the Dell RAID controller and the faster drives. But, donít count out the white box. You get a tremendous amount of computer for a very reasonable price. And I still think that just about any single processor server requirement could be handled by the White Box with an ATA/100 RAID controller with the appropriately chosen drives and RAID configuration. If you really need more performance, it is likely that you would be better off moving to one of the dual processor solutions.
 
I have to say, though, that your comments underscore how close we are in making this decision. I would default to the white box, but would always seriously consider the Dell. You would default to the Dell, but would always seriously consider the white box. Either way, I think we would both be able to point to our collection of servers in our server room and say we made the right choice. And because we have the choice, it keeps Dell honest, Can you imagine what kind of outrageous markup there might be if Dell only had to compete with Compaq?
 
Thanks for writing. I hope you will consider writing again. Your comments were very thoughtful and I think will be helpful to other IThell.com readers who are on the fence with the same decision.
 
Eric Svetcov

Home