Data Servers

By Anton Delgado
Updated: May 09, 2012

Data Servers

What are data servers?

Data servers, also known as Database servers, function as the focal point for an organization’s data, and facilitate its storage, transmission, and processing. As with all servers, the term most commonly denotes the physical hardware – the computer – but can also mean the database server software. Key definitions of data servers include:

  • “a database server performs tasks such as data analysis, storage, data manipulation, archiving, and other non-user specific task”,
  • “a computer program that provides database services to other computer programs or computers, as defined by the client–server model”,

The main purpose of a database server is to store vast quantities of data and make it readily accessible to everybody who is authorized to access it. Two types of system models exist: the aforementioned client-server model, and the master-slave model. The former is characterized by a user, who accesses the information through front-end software on his PC or other client device, and the server, which utilizes back-end software to analyze and store the data. The latter model is usually (but not always) also a client-server model but adds to it an additional relationship with a master server, which is the primary and central storage location, and numerous database slave servers which act as backups for the data.

Data servers are said to improve organization efficiency. For a start they provide ready access mechanisms to all users and services that need it thus reducing time and money spent on retrieving information. They also manage key critical components of safe access like multiple simultaneous accesses and dealing with simultaneous usage and editing of an individual piece of data by providing structures and rules to lock changes or allow them as appropriate. Some data servers send only the results to queries rather than allowing changes to the core data, thus improving performance. They also record in a separate log all the changes to the database, be them both from human or machine interaction, so in the case of hardware failure or human error, the system can be restored to its original condition. Database servers are designed for their specialized role with very fast storage and retrieval mechanisms built in and advanced software and hardware tricks like caching to speed up access to data and recording changes to data.

The cost of data servers

Unfortunately, all benefits behind data servers come at a cost sometimes running up to thousands of dollars. Therefore, this investment should be made with great consideration to avoid any wastefulness.

An entry-level server with decent parameters would cost between $500 and $1000 and could meet the demands of a small-to-medium office. Typically, that would require 1GB to 2GB of RAM, and around 1TB of RAID storage. The tower form is most appropriate as it allows for future improvements and additions. At the other end of the spectrum come the massive corporation servers which must cope with data-intensive networks, multiple layers of access, improved security and immense processing load.

The final costs of a data server are the Operating System and the organization applications. It is important to consider the price of the OS in the context of all programs that have to be bought. For example, cheaper or free programs might function only on a more expensive OS, and vice versa, and all such costs have to be summed to arrive at the total software expense.

Examples of data server software

  • Microsoft SQL Server. It is “a comprehensive database server and information platform offering a complete set of enterprise-ready technologies and tools”, . This data server software offers easy access to information, security, high performance, and integrated platform for all functions, and an extremely low cost of operation. With a Return On Investment (ROI) of 189%, it has a payback period of one year, which completely justifies the investment. The additions to the 2012 version include the xVelocity in-memory technologies, a rapid exploration of data through PowePivot and Power View; consistent data with the BI Semantic Model; SQL Server Data Tools; the Server AlwaysOn application which reduces downtime; and professional setting and configurations to meet different user needs.
  • Mac OS X Server. The Server application for Macintosh users, the Mac OS X Server enables easy setup and maintenance of a data server, The profile manager and file sharing options let users synchronize their Mac devices and access files remotely and effortlessly. The Xsan file system further builds on this ability to host and redistribute files. The technology incorporates a variety of Fibre Channel RAID storage arrays and supports failover and industry-standard multipathing.
  • Oracle Database. Another big name in the database industry, the Oracle data servers power around 18% of the world’s databases. The latest version 11g boasts consolidation and clustering of databases into private clouds and maximization of availability and usefulness. To further improve performance and reduce costs, the Oracle 11g compresses data on storage partitions and provides utmost security. The software replays real workloads , covers the whole lifecycle of a change, requires little human maintenance, and reduces testing procedures by 80%.
  • IBM DB2. IBM’s data storage solution provides a robust, enterprise-wide solution to handle huge workloads. It delivers all its services at a low cost, with easy-to-use interface, and reliability. The additional InfoSphere Warehouse has extra functions such as cubing, text analysis, and data mining to satisfy organization needs. Its other features include DB2 pureScale, adaptive compression, time travel query, continuous ingest, noSQL graph, and multi-temperature Data management. 
  • Informix. Another product by IBM, Informix offers reliability, security and low expenses to users, and outstanding embeddability to solution providers. Although most of its functions operate in all environments, the Informix Warehouse Accelerator (IWA), which enables unlimited development, deployment and distribution, requires Linux.


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