What Makes a Server a Server?

By Deane Barker on June 5, 2003

I was looking at the back page of a Dell catalog today, and they had a “PowerEdge 600SC Server” for $499. I thought, “Wow, that’s cheap for a server.” Then I looked closer…

The “server” had nothing “server-ly” about it. It was a Pentium 2.4GHz with a 40GB hard-drive and 256MB of RAM. Sure, it had a gigabit NIC, but there was no other spec about it that said “server.” The desktop I’m writing this entry on was more a server than the Dell. That was just a workstation in a server case with a server name.

So I got to thinking, what makes a server a server? What hardware imparts “server-ness” to a machine? I flipped a few pages back into the catalog and I found a PowerEdge 1750 1U blade with Xeon processors, hot-swappable hard drives, redundant power supplies, and a SCSI RAID contoller. Now that’s a server, I thought.

And so was the price: $1,699.