Do generic stock servers have a future in a cloud world?
One of the things I've been reading lately is a certain amount of PR about 'the cloud' and about how most everyone with a good sized private datacenter will wind up moving to the cloud instead because they just can't compete with the economics. I don't know enough here to have an opinion, but the people here seem to make a plausible case (both about how much more efficiently Amazon can operate their servers than you can operate yours and how hard it'd be to match all of their management tools with your own software). Given that this future might come to pass, I got to wondering: what happens to stock servers?
The people running Amazon and Google and Facebook and so on are not buying off the rack Dell/HP/Lenovo/etc servers; one of the reasons they can be more efficient than you is that they use custom designs that are adapted to their exact environment. Instead, the people buying those servers in bulk are exactly the big datacenters that are supposed to move to the cloud. Currently, all of the rest of us smaller people buying servers have very likely been benefiting from the volume of big datacenters, since high product volume drives down prices and pays off custom engineering and so on; selling tons of generic 1U servers has to be part of why they've become relatively inexpensive. But what happens to the generic stock server market if that big datacenter volume goes away? As the number of people buying their own servers shrinks, will we still have inexpensive stock servers to buy?
One possible answer is that there's enough volume in the small business sector to sustain at least some of the major players and keep stock servers inexpensive and available. I don't know if I believe this, although I also have no idea how large this market segment actually is. Another potential answer is that while big datacenters in the well connected West may shrink a lot, there are plenty of places where issues like bandwidth and latency will mean that local companies (both big and small) have local servers and this will sustain the server market in general.
Or we may lose those cheap, convenient, readily available servers from companies like Dell, which would probably leave us buying more servers from smaller OEMs like SuperMicro. They would cost more, which would be a bummer, but they might not cost lots more, especially if we got 2U or 3U units instead of 1U ones. We're lucky enough to not really be rack space constrained; for everyone else, well, in the cloud-heavy future the colocation operators may drop their prices for rack space due to reduced demand.
(Before 1U servers became generic popcorn, my impression was that you paid extra for squeezing all of the necessary components into such a small space. I suspect that this is not the case today, due to the high volume.)