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Has blade server technology matured far enough?

Quoting TechTarget 

This is the final article in a three-part series on the pros and cons of blade servers. In this part, they explore the technology gains of blade servers.

In part one of this series, we explored whether blades offer cost savings compared with rack servers. In part two, we examined whether data center design and power and cooling concerns tip the scales in favor of blades. Now, in part three, we examine whether the technological advances in blade server technology make blades a viable alternative to their rack-mount counterparts.

Over the past couple of years, blade vendors have made significant technical advancements in terms of I/O, memory, network interface cards and power efficiency, according to Dave Leonard, chief technology officer at hosting company Infocrossing Inc. in Leonia, N.J.

Technology gains signal a step forward
These increased capabilities have enabled users to meet business needs with greater IT dexterity and less downtime. Bill Montgomery, chief technology officer at Lulu, an online content site, for example, cited flexibility as the reason that he has migrated away from rack servers in the company's production data center. "Blades are much easier to deploy, provision and manage," he said. With IBM BladeCenter servers and an EqualLogic Inc. storage area network, Montgomery said Lulu has the ability to accommodate fast growth quickly and with minimal system disruption.

Blades' increased reliability have paved the way for additional capabilities. "There's now a lot more connectivity into each blade with Ethernet ports, making server virtualization possible where it wasn't before, because there weren't enough ports," Leonard said. In essence, the gap between racks and blades for many processing needs has narrowed to the point where "the form factor is different, and that's pretty much it," he said.

John Enck, a research vice president at Gartner Inc. who covers server infrastructure, agreed. "The major vendors use the same chip sets in their blades and rack servers," he said.

At Lulu, Montgomery also advocated blades to enable server virtualization. Lulu runs VMware, thanks to the extended memory in its IBM blades. "We have 8 GB memory modules rather than 4," Montgomery said. While the memory modules in Lulu's blade servers have lower capacity than the latest models in rack servers, Lulu can install twice as many modules in its existing blades. "That makes a better case for virtualization on blades," Montgomery said.

 

That's not to say that virtualization is universally appropriate. For some data centers, virtualization on blades is a pricey proposition; because blades can't typically host as many virtual machines (VMs) as a hefty rack server, they may require more licenses to virtualize the same number of VMs as with rack mounts. "With large rack-mount servers, you pay for only one license," said Bob Sullivan, a senior consultant at the Uptime Institute Inc. in Santa Fe, N.M.

"There are certainly cost implications when it comes to licensing on blades," said Philip Skeete, president of Conxerge, a managed service provider.

...

Read the rest of this article, here.

Published Wednesday, August 08, 2007 7:41 AM by David Marshall
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