Egenera BladeFrame ES

Although you may not save space, the powerful BladeFrame ES is high-end, highly virtual and a realistic mini-computer replacement.

November 18, 2005

3 Min Read
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If you're running 1U rack-mount Intel servers, it's unlikely an Egenera BladeFrame will save you space. But if you're replacing Unix systems, it's worth investigating--many organizations care as much about conserving data center space as they do about sheer processing power.

The BladeFrame ES sports a CLI and a GUI, both capable of performing the same functions. I preferred the GUI for ease of use but encountered many problems with blade control, and the GUI seemed to be confused about whether a blade was in a manageable state. Generally, disconnecting from the GUI and reconnecting cleaned up these discrepancies.

The Egenera "P-Blades" (Processing Blades)--the blades that run your applications--require an external disk source for booting. Egenera was kind enough to supply me with a SAN array that was prequalified for working with its blades, and for my purposes all went well. But the P-Blades do not boot any OS locally. Egenera has drivers for various versions of Windows and Linux, so your x86 OS of choice should be usable, but if you are running an odd version of either OS, check with Egenera about compatibility.


• High-end x86-based blades

• Multicore Opteron support• Highly virtualized

Bad• 1U per blade makes space savings useful only for mini-computer replacement

• GUI is not on par with the CLI• Oversubscription of physical IP ports might be a problem for some

Egenera BladeFrame ES, starts at $89,900. Egenera, (508) 858-2600.

I completely configured cross-P-Blade virtual machines in the BladeFrame ES, allocating blades, network cards, network switches and storage to a pool, then load-balancing across the pool. Impressively, the server can place two dissimilar blades together, or more important, place a dissimilar blade as the backup for a virtual machine. I configured two blades as running Windows 2003, then a third blade with a different CPU and memory capacity as a backup for that virtual machine (they call the virtual machine an L-PAN). Then, I pulled one of the Windows 2003 blades out, and watched it provision the "spare" blade from the pool. Reprovisioning was rapid for my simple tests--a minute or less. A heavily loaded server is likely to take longer. Still, this type of recovery is what we hope to get out of future generations of servers, right? Egenera has it now.

Interestingly, Egenera's switching is at the built-in wire level. That means you can't do anything overly complex with its switches, but it has built a virtualization engine on top of its hard-wiring that lets you place several blades on a virtual switch. This allows maximum flexibility internally, and presenting a simple dumb-switch interface externally avoids interoperability problems because it doesn't do much more than physical switching.

The Egenera BladeFrame ES is a fine product, suitable for most data centers. I'd like a smaller version, but Egenera's primary target is mini-computer replacement, making its existing products fit just fine. In this arena, Egenera is a bargain if you can get versions of your apps that will run on

Don MacVittie is a senior technology editor at Network Computing. Write to him at dmacvittie@

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