The developers of Rapsheets Criminal Records created a service they thought was right for the times: the ability to complete a criminal background check on an individual using the Internet. The problem was, they weren't sure how fast the company would grow and how much IT infrastructure should be deployed to accommodate that growth.
"Our business was on the cusp of taking off," says Tom Clark, Rapsheets' IT manager. "We knew we were going to have to invest in a stable architecture from the hardware perspective, but it had to be flexible enough to grow fast without making any unnecessary up-front investment."
Rapsheets turned to blade servers, the fastest-growing segment in the server market. Blade servers, which became available in 2001, are modular servers built on a single motherboard with integrated memory and processor.
Rapsheets, which slowly emerged in 2001 from a fledgling Web service by a Memphis, Tenn., newspaper, had accumulated a hodgepodge of hardware infrastructure in its formative stages. As the company began to crystallize its efforts early last year, it wanted to accomplish two things, Clark says: create a flexible platform that could expand easily and standardize its hardware around a single vendor. The company looked at blade alternatives and settled on IBM BladeCenter. It's now running nine Xeon-processor-based blades in a single chassis and is preparing to add a second BladeCenter chassis.
"We didn't know how many types of searches we were going to be making, plus we had a pretty small footprint as far as space to house the hardware," Clark says. "We needed to be able to add blades and change the roles of the different devices, and the blade architecture has made it fairly easy. It's just been a much better platform [than rack-mounted servers] from a management standpoint."