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Are Blades In Your Future?

Blade servers are a relatively new phenomenon in the panoply of IT products. Small, single-card servers that fit as many as 84 two-way servers into an industry-standard rack, these server blades promise to provide much more computing power per cubic foot than is possible with standard rack-mount servers, or standalone box servers.

However, there are some caveats. For example, the heat density in a stack of server blades can get pretty intense, so that you may wind up adding some more air-handling capability than you might otherwise have needed. And, if you're thinking that blades are going to solve all your space problems in an already established data center, think again. Ripping out what you have to install blades will save you space, but it isn't cheap, and you have to consider costs carefully as you consider whether server blades are a solution that you want to consider. Further, if your enterprise is running an IT setup with a server group and a networking group, then putting in a blade server rack could cause some political problems that will require the attention of higher management: The servers and the network are all in one spot, so some functions may not be necessary any more, and that will cause lots of angst.

That said, what do you get if you want to go into server blades? And what don't you get? How can you compare these diminutive servers with their more traditional cousins?

Take a look at the Sun B1600 blade platform, which you can see at the company's Web site. According to the company's pricing and configuration information, you can get a starter pack consisting of the chassis, eight B100s blade servers, one Sun Fire V120 server, the Solaris operating system, provisioning software and the Advanced Lights Out Manager, for remote management, all for $23,349. The B100s server blade is based on a single 64-bit UltraSPARC processor, and Sun says it is the first 64-bit blade server.

Of course, then you can expand the system with eight more blades, either SPARC or x86-based, or you can add special-purpose networking blades. If you opt for the B200x server blade, then you get blades with two x86 processors, so you can add even more processors into the package.

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