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Are Blades Cutting It?

Industry messages about blade servers and the storage switches that go with them – are decidedly mixed. On the one hand, we hear they're a disappointment; on the other, that blades are the fastest-growing segment of the server market.

Representing the first camp is analyst firm TheInfoPro Inc. (TIP), which conducted a survey of 70 server managers, 35 percent of whom viewed blades as "unnecessary, costly, and an immature technology." The firm says the early excitement around blade servers was premature. (See Study Highlights Blade Disappointment.)

"Many expected to see improvements in server manageability, along with cost, energy, and space savings, and today's blades just aren't delivering those benefits across a range of configurations," says Bob Gill, TIP's chief research officer, in a prepared statement.

From the storage perspective, more bad news came in August from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD), which reported disappointing sales in the blade department (see Blunt Blades Bloody Brocade). OEM partners Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL) and Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ), execs maintain, just didn't get the message out fast enough.

Another blade camp has a different message. "Blades are the fastest-growing segment of the Intel-based server market," says Tim Golden, director of product marketing for PowerEdge servers at Dell. He says that while the "attach rate" of blade servers to SANs (meaning the percentage of blade server users who adopt SAN switch blades) is less than 20 percent right now, it is "growing very rapidly." Besides Brocade switches, Dell also sells Fibre Channel fabric switches from McData Corp. (Nasdaq: MCDTA) and Emulex Corp. (NYSE: ELX) in blade form.

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