Death of the workstation

Alternative platforms from white box vendors are becoming an increasing threat to traditional proprietary workstations offered by tier one vendors, according to Jon Peddie Research.

This is especially prevalent in cases where applications are the most price-sensitive, less compute, graphics

intensive or mission-critical.

Alex Herrera, a senior analyst at JPR, predicts the well-known workstations made by vendors Sun Microsystems, Hewlett-Packard, IBM and SGI will disappear in the next four to eight years. “”The writing’s already on the wall (for) the proprietary station, with the emergence of Windows having higher acceptance in professional spaces and the emergence of Linux as a proprietary Unix killer,”” he said.

830 million shipped

The semi-annual JPR Work-station Report, authored by Herrera, found that 830 million workstations were shipped in the first half of 2004. Out of that number, PC-derived workstations — which JPR defines as “”based on components either taken off the shelf from the PC world or derived from PC components”” — accounted for approximately 92 per cent of units and 84 per cent of revenue.

In the PC-derived workstation segment, Dell had a 45 per cent market share followed by HP at 26 per cent, IBM at 12 per cent and Sun at six per cent.

Driving this trend is the gaming industry. “”The differences are far less than five to 10 years ago because the gaming industry has taken over the computer graphics market.””

Rahul Sood, president of Calgary-based Voodoo PC, which is best known for its gaming machines, said that market tends to push the entire industry. Voodoo also builds workstations aimed at the gaming developer market. The systems integrator’s workstations average US$6,000.

“”The gaming market tends to drive the industry based on the software requirement that we have in order to play games,”” said Sood.

However, he said there are differences between a high-end gaming machine and workstation that users should consider before buying such as a video card. For example, Nvidia’s Quattro card is specifically designed for a workstation.

Kelly Chan, director of Hamilton, Ont.-based Alliance Computers, said customers are opting for Intel Pentium 4-based PCs at speeds up to 3.6 GHz over Sun workstations.

“”The speed of the CPU is closer to what the workstation used to have,”” said Chan.

“”(Intel’s) really blurring the line between the workstations and the home computer.”” Chan added price is also a big issue for his customers.

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