White Box Servers – Are They Worth Considering?


November 01, 2018

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As server hardware becomes increasingly commoditized, NPI finds enterprise clients looking for ways to lower costs in this area. One solution is the use of white box servers.

White box servers are data center servers that are not manufactured by a brand name vendor such as Dell, HPE, Cisco UCS or Lenovo. However, plenty of brand name companies use them to reduce costs – including the likes of Google and Facebook – and that’s opened the door for white box servers to enter into the mainstream enterprise IT ecosystem.

SuperMicro is one of the most frequently purchased white box platforms and represents the standard for this class of servers.  In fact, many of the other white box vendors out there package a SuperMicro solution into their own chassis and essentially create a re-packaged SuperMicro system.

The benefits of taking the white box route are numerous. Lower costs without sacrificing stability, coupled with a more highly redundant server environment, are typically the primary drivers. But one issue persists – and that’s long-term support, a benefit that’s historically been tied to the brand-name vendors that cater to enterprises’ support requirements.

Fortunately, we’re seeing progress in this area. A somewhat new entrant in the white box arena is Intel. Yes, Intel. The introduction of Intel’s servers brings not just a brand-name manufacturer (and the validation and credibility that comes with it), but one with a product roadmap and support lifecycle that was previously absent in the market. Unlike SuperMicro, Intel guarantees availability of replacement parts for 5 years after the end-of-life date. That means companies can safely continue to use white box systems well past the typical cost amortization period without fear that spare part unavailability could make their investments worthless.

NPI continues to see improvements in the white box space. Procurement teams now have a compelling argument to consider the financial benefits their organization may reap by considering non-traditional compute systems.