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Blade Management Tools Take Center Stage

Managing blade servers and integrating them with other system resources is more important to companies as blades become more widely adopted. As with other markets, standards are becoming more of the norm throughout the IT industry: Server makers are opening their management toolkits to third-party developers, increasing support for each other's hardware, and integrating blade systems with other computing resources more tightly. The benefits of blades will increasingly depend upon management efficiency and flexibility as hardware becomes more commoditized.

The moves by server manufacturers come with a robust blade market as the backdrop. Blade server shipments more than doubled in 2004, reaching 450,000 units -- 7 percent of the U.S. x86 server market, according to IDC, which expects blades to account for 40 percent of the overall server market by 2006.

"Rapid advancement in system management software, clustering technology, and the continued disaggregation of servers into smaller form factors and components are expected to fuel the growth of server blades and modular systems," IDC analysts wrote in their year-end server market analysis.

Even with the expected growth in the blade market, though, companies are mindful that server managers don't want to be locked into a proprietary arrangement that impedes them from using a variety of hardware. "Customers want a truly open management environment that uses actual standards such as IPMI and CIM," says Rob Sauerwalt, IBM's global brand manager for blade architectures. "They don't want to have to deal with units individually, or learn many methods of doing it."

The company is adapting its IBM Director tool accordingly, says Sauerwalt. "IBM Director is focused on care and feeding of hardware," he says. "Its core values include grouping capability; scheduling; and event action plans. We are now breaking up Director so that its core values will be individual modules while Director remains the framework." This strategy will enable customers to update Director modules more easily and integrate their favorite tools with Director. Sauerwalt adds: "Our management SDK program allows third-parties to integrate their tools with Director. So a customer can use Altiris (for example) in lieu of IBM Remote Deployment Manager."

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