As the number of businesses adopting e-business strategies continued rising into the new millennium, technology firms began offering a host of hardware and software options designed to meet enterprise needs. These offerings, enterprise servers among them, were developed to give companies a competitive edge by providing high performance infrastructures, as well as control over growing networks and Internet operations.
In a basic client/server relationship, the server acted as the host computer that stored information and was shared by clients within a network. The client, another computer or remote device, could retrieve information from the server. The term server also referred to the software that allowed the transfer of information to take place.
As technology advanced and businesses began using computers for a variety of tasks, different types of servers were developed to manage different types of resources. For instance, file servers were used to store files, printing servers were used to manage printers on a network, network servers evolved to handle traffic within a network, and database servers were developed to control information and process database queries. Application servers, most often used by enterprises with both intranet and Internet operations, performed data processing tasks that allowed up-to-date information to be delivered to clients. Application servers typically linked to Web servers, which enabled content to be transferred over the Internet. Web servers would receive a request from a Web browser, retrieve the stored Web page, and then process the request so the page could be viewed via the browser.
Enterprise servers emerged in the late 1990s as businesses began looking for solutions that could manage their e-business infrastructures and networks. As demand for these types of servers increased, technology firms began developing products that could manage growth; provide flexibility in selecting, creating, and utilizing applications; provide security; and insure reliable performance.
Designed to benefit the organization as a whole, enterprise servers were developed as enhanced servers involved in a multitude of tasks including Web development, content management, and data processing. Enterprise servers also could manage many aspects of a company's network, acting as file, printing, network, database, application, and Web servers. The sale of these servers was targeted toward businesses needing to become Web-enabled in order to begin conducting commerce on the Internet.
IT managers in search of enterprise servers had many options. By 2001, technology firms including IBM Corp., Compaq Computer Corp., Hewlett Packard Co. (HP), Microsoft Corp., and iPlanet E-Commerce Solutions all offered versions of enterprise servers. Netscape Communication Corp.'s Enterprise Web Server, which became the iPlanet Enterprise Web Server—iPlanet was formed in 1999 by an alliance between Sun Microsystems Inc., America Online Inc., and Netscape—was a leader in the enterprise market. It was voted the top enterprise server in 1998 by PC Magazine and was used to run Internet sites such as E*Trade, Charles Schwab, Digex, Excite, and Lycos. Microsoft also offered enterprise servers under the name.NET Enterprise Servers. This server package was designed to integrate, manage, and prepare enterprises for doing business on the Web. IBM's zSeries was developed to manage data and transaction processing. The firm touted the product as the first "e-business" enterprise server for its performance and application management capabilities.
In 2000, the enterprise server industry slowed, due in part to the lagging economy. A study done by Cutter Consortium in 2001 showed that 27 percent of those polled cut spending related to e-business. The slowdown was not expected to last long, however, as most companies viewed e-business strategies as a key element to long-term business plans. Nevertheless, many technology firms felt the financial pains of weakening demand. In a 2000 E-Commerce Times article, e-business solution provider Unisys stated: "we are feeling the impact of the economic slowdown most heavily in our systems integration and enterprise server businesses. As customers look for ways to control costs and trim budgets, they are reducing their spending on leading-edge e-business solutions that require systems integration and consulting expertise." However, firms such as Sun Microsystems, IBM, Compaq, and HP did post positive revenue results from enterprise server sales in 2000. Whether posting gains or losses, firms in the server industry felt confident that the market would rebound as companies entering the e-business world would be compelled to purchase enterprise servers to gain the Internet infrastructure and applications necessary to succeed on the Web.
"Best of 1998." PC Magazine. January 1999. Available from www.zdnet.com.
"The Evolution of Enterprise Computing." ServerWorld Magazine. February 2000. Available from www.serverworldmagazine.com.
Macaluso, Nora. "Unisys Falls on Results, Outlook." E-Commerce Times. April 17, 2001. Available from www.ecommercetimes.com.
1. A server intended to provide service to an entire organization rather than to a selected subset of the organization. It is most likely to be the system maintaining a corporate database, where there are high levels of interaction between the separate entries in the database, and between the separate uses made of the database by the individual members of the organization. The enterprise server may be a server in a client/server environment.
2. Informal name for mainframe.