Commodity hardware, sometimes known as off-the-shelf hardware, is a computer device or IT component that is relatively inexpensive, widely available and basically interchangeable with other hardware of its type. Unlike purpose-built hardware designed for a specific IT function, commodity hardware can perform many different functions. Commodity hardware is usually low-end, broadly compatible and can function on a plug-and-play basis with other commodity hardware products. A commodity computer, for example, is a standard-issue PC that has no outstanding features and is easily available for purchase. Commodity hard disks can be configured as a redundant array of independent disks (RAID) for fault tolerance and failover. In many environments, multiple low-end servers share the workload. Commodity servers may be considered disposable and are typically replaced rather than repaired.
Generally, commodity hardware can evolve from any technologically mature product. Thus, most hardware products that have been on the market for five years or more are available in commodity versions. In many cases, commodity hardware involves low-cost desktop computers or workstations that are IBM-compatible and can run operating systems like Microsoft Windows, Linux and DOS without additional software or adaptations. These hardware components can be connected and integrated to form more sophisticated computing environments that deliver mainframe-like processing at a lower cost. Companies that use a commodity computing model can often save thousands of dollars in IT procurement. A commodity hardware environment is usually cheaper to set up, maintain, expand and develop. It also prevents vendor lock-in. Unlike mainframes, commodity hardware performance is easy to measure and tune.
Commodity hardware is often deployed for high availability and disaster recovery purposes, for example, in mobile offices acting as workplaces after disasters, in off-site backups, or in live replication between multiple sites. While all enterprise IT solutions from SUSE can run on commodity hardware, Geo Clustering for SUSE Linux Enterprise High Availability Extension leverages commodity hardware for business continuity. Using a high availability cluster built on standard commodity hardware, it replicates the data live across very long distances. If the primary data center fails, services automatically failover to a working data center.