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Blades: The Edge Of Acceptance

The nascent blade-server market continues on its evolutionary path, moving beyond the early-adopter stage to an era in which software innovation is helping the technology become a mainstream option for IT enterprise applications. But for businesses to adopt blade platforms faster, the technology needs to make good on some of its early promises that it's a cheaper and--most critically--more manageable alternative for server implementations.

A sluggish first half of 2004 kept the blade-server market from meeting some of its growth projections last year, but overall momentum was undeniable. As the technology eases into the mainstream, blade manufacturers and software vendors have begun to concentrate on improving deployment, manageability, and virtualization.

About 280,000 blade servers were shipped last year, according to Gartner, less than the research firm's original projection of 338,000. Still, revenue from blade servers totaled $1.2 billion, up slightly from Gartner's $1.1 billion projection, due in part to higher average selling prices as users have aggressively deployed more two- and four-processor blades than had been expected.

The fourth quarter of last year was particularly strong for blades. Worldwide, an average of about 63,000 blades were shipped per quarter in the first three quarters of 2004; 107,000 blades were moved into the market in the fourth quarter. Overall, in the past year the blade market grew more than 75% in units and about 95% in revenue, and it's poised for similar gains this year.

Dell PowerEdge 1855 chassis for blade servers

Five years ago, Delaware North built a data center it believed would be adequate for 10 to 15 years. But as the company grew to managing 2,000 properties internationally by 2003, it found it had no floor space left, and the data center was exceeding its power and cooling capacity, says Bob Armstrong, director of information services.

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