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HP MicroServer vs Fujitsu MX130 S1 – which is the best SMB starter server?

After using both the HP MicroServer and the Fujitsu MX130 S1 with Windows 2008 for a few weeks, (I’ve just published the articles) some thoughts then.

The HP MicroServer is very well designed, I have a few hesitations:

  • The DVD drive needs to be standard – yes you can get around without it possibly. But I can imagine if I shipped one to dad, the first thing he’d say is where’s the DVD where do I put in my Windows CD? In future you might get away without it, or if you’re network booting it or using ESX it’s not essential, handy nonetheless.
  • 1GB RAM isn’t that much these days, we should be looking at 2GB these days.
  • Fitting memory isn’t particularly easy due to form factor – but then how often were you planning to do this?
  • VGA video – should we be thinking about DVI these days? I had to look around for a vga screen in the office

The Fujitsu is equally well designed though I have a few hesitations:

  • No hard drive on the entry edition – something should really be standard, even if it’s 200GB enough to get started
  • Questions over scaling up additional storage in terms of internal neatness
  • DVI video port – shouldn’t it be VGA -but then an adaptor is included so I can’t really complain
  • Is it a re-badged desktop? Do I care?

The winner then – the FUJITSU MX130 S1

If you’re wanting an all round starter server, something to get you going as much as it pains me saying this (I am afterall a massive HP fan), get the Fujitsu, get a hard drive, get Windows 2008, a monitor (if you can’t borrow one) and you’re set.  I can sense my colleagues talking about expansion and the ability to neatly add more drives, but for the average SMB that I and colleagues meet, where the server sits under Jenny’s desk, occasionally has server guy reboot it once a month or patch it, the Fuitsu is ideal, for a number of reasons:

  • DVD drive is standard
  • Keyboard as standard (in the box shipped to us from reseller)
  • Form factor is familiar – it’s like servicing a desktop
  • DVI to VGA adaptor standard – so you can use either type monitor
  • More powerful cpu – fine for a file server it’s not entirely necessary but it makes Windows just that little bit smoother or it certainly feels that way
  • 2GB RAM, so out of the box it will run Windows and your anti virus software nicely

I don’t know if it’s a perception thing or of perceived value, it’s the feel of the Fujitsu, the nice easy to recycle cardboard box which felt like it contained everything. In the box I had:

  • Spare hard drive SATA cables (as there was no hard drive in the unit we ordered in it’s defence)
  • Keyboard – really a keyboard? But then the company recognizes that you might need one
  • Manuals, driver dvds and instruction booklets.

It felt like the Fujitsu guys had thought “right we’re shipping our customer their first server what will they need?” Something that no doubt HP did, but they then thought did you need/want a DVD drive? Did you want 2GB RAM, and I take it you have a keyboard? They’re giving you scalability, but does the target market want that?

It’s often the little things that matter, the keyboard, the DVD, all designed just to make life that little bit easier.

A colleague had got into a long debate with me comparing the two as I ordered both in the same week. He praised the custom nature of the MicroServer, the attention to detail they had made with the design, with the form factor, pointing out that the Fujitsu had a silly name, that it was just a desktop with an old processor with server written on the case. “Indeed” I replied, “indeed, but I think you’re missing something. The spec is actually quite good, the form factor is fine, it’s not massive in size, and I’d argue it’s form factor is something of a benefit in some respects.”

Many times in the past working with remote clients, sites asking them to ‘fit a new hard drive in the server’ resulted in unnecessarily complex “oh a server you say, Bonnie is a desktop engineer, she doesn’t do servers” conversations, sending them something that looks like a desktop might have made that life for me just that little bit easier. Asking them to fit a replacement disk and network boot it might not seem as scary as a thing on the front with a key and many drive bays.

Is it scalable, is it a server in it’s industrial strength and purest form?

No, but as a device to bridge between Ken’s desktop being the server, and having a ‘server’ and following the server mindset, it really is good enough.  Lights out? Well it’s invaluable but then if I were deploying these in bulk, I can live without it, there will typically be someone that I can phone allowing me to ascertain if it’s game over or power cycle it type activities to restore service.

What would I like to see? HP/Fujitsu and Dell go the extra mile and bring me ‘their Genius’

With the extra attention to detail Fujitsu have made, it’s a compelling offering and I think HP need to pay attention, I wonder if they need at the same time to establish if the MicroServer is for the server guy lab, for Gerald to let him have his garage back, or if it’s for the millions of micro businesses around the world that might want their own in house Active Directory, file server or even baby intranet/application server where the economics might lead to cloud but where the confidence, where the comfort is still in having a box under the desk which they reboot ‘every now and again’ or when ‘Fred comes in’.

A small business starter bundle – server + hard drive(s) +Windows + Anti Virus or HP MicroServer + DVD + 2 or 4GB RAM + Windows + Anti Virus each with a free keyboard and mouse as a non cost option again with or without monitor, for around the £400 price mark. Businesses will pay for something that helps them, you need to illustrate the value, whilst there can I also highlight the anti virus updates for three years please, or don’t bother, as my brother had said to me 90 days anti virus is like someone giving you Office and neglecting to give you the license key, almost useful.

Most of all I’d like to see a server as a service, £65 a month gets you a version of Marjorie or a Bernard with everything you need and a guy once a month to turn up, check it looks ok, check there’s no errors, no weird disk type noises and that the back up as a service is working as the lord intended it so. What vendors forget is fix the problem first and everything else later, can I have a ‘Genius on the road’ that pops in for a tea, biscuits and checks that Bernard is working, checks if I need anything else and then goes off. Think of the opportunities, assistance with social media, with blogging, with a website or ecommerce, with the desktop with the laptops or even thin clients? Own the offering is owning the customer – it’s what Apple have in such an effective way, when my Mac makes me emotional, the phone dials Apple, I then turn up speak to Matthew who helps me and makes ever so polite hints that my MacPro from 2007 may be getting a little bit old and I should consider a new one, white possibly, but let’ me continue seeing how long I can keep a computer for, record with G5 was five years….

At this point I can sense any number of my colleagues eager to jump in to say virtualization, cloud, application or infrastructure as a service, indeed, absolutely, but for the car mechanic down the road, the estate agents or the mini PR company, who at the moment runs his email, browses the web and runs his apps on the one ultra cheap five year old PC cranking along, to offer a cheap device where he can store the database,  contacts, keep the invoices independent of the PC and then have them backed up to the web is an incredible exciting concept. Of course moving them to the cloud is the ideal goal for many, but let us all individually operate in our comfort zone, if that’s cloud great, if it’s our first server great, and if it’s a virtual infrastructure down a wire, there’s plenty of opportunity, capacity and choice for all of us. Let us not forget that as we journey along the IT road that is discovery.

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One Response to “HP MicroServer vs Fujitsu MX130 S1 – which is the best SMB starter server?”

  1. ST2 says:

    To alleviate the CD/DVD ROM as standard, I have recently switched to installing from 4GB USB Stick – Microsoft have a tool that will copy a Windows CD/ISO to USB – simple to do and much quicker (and quieter) install


  1. New Fujitsu MicroServer! PRIMERGY MX130 S2 available now! - - [...] I bought the S1 version last year to compare it to the MicroServer and I was very pleased with…

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