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Form Factor Follows Function

This week, you can't turn around anywhere in the server market without hearing about blade servers. There's at least one good reason for that: The industry is gathered at the Server Blade Summit this week out in California, so naturally there's a fair amount of news stemming from that, as there always is from industry conferences and trade shows.

But there's another reason that blades continue to be in the forefront of server coverage: They're increasingly popular, and with good reason. Their space savings, scalability, cost factor and efficiency make them a choice worth checking out from the low end of the midrange enterprise all the way up to large corporate installations, where server admins have found that running large server rooms gets quite a bit easier with blades that can be hot-swapped in and out of the installation, not to mention easily managed. (That is, as long as you can also manage the heat buildup that comes from packing so many more servers into smaller spaces.) Management tools are the key to making the blade environment work, and -- as with so many other decisions that admins have to make in this industry -- standards-based tools that can handle heterogeneous, non-proprietary server environments are moving to the forefront. In a way, it's good to see a still-nascent tech area start to get itself past the proprietary-technology stage so fast; I've seen the closed technology-to-open standards scenario play itself out so often in IT that it's refreshing to watch companies act as if they've actually figured it out this time.

So, are blades for you? Maybe, and maybe not. The technology, promising as it is, still has a ways to go before it's an automatic answer to your server environment needs. InformationWeek's Darrell Dunn lays out the evolution of the blade sector very nicely, and it'd be a great idea to give this a close read if you're evaluating blades for your business, or even just thinking about them. One thing is clear already, though: Blades have graduated from last year's hype buzzword to a real alternative for a wide range of IT-reliant businesses.