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Server Blades: What You Need To Know

Server blades, also called blade servers, have been around for a bit, but, apparently, in a twist on Tennyson, in the spring, a young man's fancy lightly turns to thoughts of blade servers. (That goes for young women in IT as well.) Sales of blade servers are expected to increase dramatically, from $341 million this year to $3.7 billion by 2006, according to IDC.

Here are five reasons why that might be:

1) Ease of management. Management of server blades is built into the chassis, as is the connection to the rest of the network. Blades can be managed over the Internet from another computer workstation. Through consolidation, IT homogenization, flexibility of resource allocation, and ease of upgradability, server blades can lower the cost of administration when compared with traditional infrastructure.
2) Blade servers won't break your company's bank. Blade architecture means easier upgrades than with traditional technologies. If a company handles IT internally, that's great news, and if it uses a solution provider, it means fewer billable hours. However, on the plus side for VARs, it could also equate to more calls: Computing resources are under tighter control with built-in reporting, therefore customers can more easily justify upgrades to the CIO.

3) Good things come in small packages. Not everyone wants a data center the size of Rhode Island. Companies are catering to those companies recognizing that size is not everything.

4) Blades are on the cutting edge (excuse the pun) of lowering IT costs. New products are introduced regularly.
5) They keep their cool. Well, more or less. This is an area of concern as blades are used for bigger jobs. Four or five years ago, many blade servers were used for light duty. Generally, a blade enclosure uses some 80 to 100 watts per single-processor server blade. Such servers usually use low-voltage microprocessors. Compare that against a traditional 1U-high server, which might suck up between 180 and 250 watts of power. Less watts = less heat. But as the benefits to using blades became more apparent, companies began to use them for heavier lifting. Dell has recently made some noise about heat as a concern; IBM and HP say they are addressing the issue using fans in the blade chassis that allow for maximum air flow.

So blade servers, or server blades, seem like a pretty terrific idea " but only, obviously, if the solution fits your needs (or your customers'). They are not a suitable replacement necessarily for an e-mail server. Blades are ideal for companies that require many small servers. In addition, companies that have multiple servers running the same software, rely upon external storage and are front-ended by a network load balancer should check out blades.

Here's some reading material to help in the decision-making process:

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