Blade servers will likely be at the heart of utility-computing environments, which should enable business-technology managers to shift server, storage, and networking resources to respond in real time to business demands. There are problems with the technology, such as the ability to keep data centers cool when they're densely packed with blade servers. But the benefits so far seem to outweigh those concerns, including economical use of rack space and cabling and an easier way to add and remove processors. Vendors are now trying to fulfill another promise of blade servers: Helping companies consolidate the management of these resources.
Most efforts to date have concentrated on making it easier to manage blade servers from a single vendor. IBM two weeks ago introduced its Web Infrastructure Orchestration software, which is designed to automate data-center operations for its Intel-based BladeCenter servers running its WebSphere middleware, DB2 database, and Tivoli Storage Manager software.
But some vendors are taking steps to simplify blade-server interoperability. Last week, blade-server manufacturer RLX Technologies Inc. introduced the latest version of its Control Tower XT software, which can manage RLX blades and servers from other vendors in a data center.
Also last week, several utility-computing services and software providers formed the Data Center Markup Language Organization to develop standards they say will be the cornerstone to building utilitylike data centers where all IT components, including blade servers, can exchange information. "We're trying to build a language construct that addresses the data center as a whole," says Darrel Thomas, chief technologist of EDS Hosting Services, one of 25 companies launching the organization. Other founding members are Akamai Technologies, Computer Associates, Mercury Interactive and Opsware.
The group expects to begin designing the DCML framework in November and to have a specification ready for testing by early next year.