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Analysis: Next-Gen Blade Servers


If the name of the data center game is getting more computing power for less, blades should be the hottest thing since South Beach. They're more manageable and deliver better TCO than their 1U counterparts--our latest testing shows as much as a fourfold increase in processor density combined with 20 percent to 30 percent power savings.

So why did Gartner Dataquest put this year's blade shipments at an anemic 850,000 units this year, just 10 percent of total server sales?

Because earlier-generation blade servers were like fad diets--long on hype, short on delivery. Despite vendor promises, they didn't represent much of a savings over conventional devices. Most of the systems we evaluated when we reviewed blade servers in June 2003 were struggling with first-generation blues--an 8- or 10-blade chassis used the same amount of rack space as equivalent IU devices and suffered I/O bandwidth limitations between blades and backplanes, making them better-suited for Web server consolidation than running critical databases.

But even then, one fact came through loud and clear: Managing blades is substantially easier than dealing with individual racked boxes.

Today, blade server designs have improved, with enough midplane throughput and modularity at the chassis to provide investment protection for their three-to-five-year lifespan. Processor density has increased, and power consumption is lower than you might expect.

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