Five things you didn't know about your blade server

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In today's high tech world, the idea has always been to make devices, from computers to mobile phones and tablets, smaller and more portable. The same principle applies to server technology with the blade server specifically designed for its compactness and modularity. Because blade servers are significantly smaller than rack or tower servers are, it is possible for data centers to pack more of them in the same space used by the older server systems. Blade servers cut down on the need for data center space, on maintenance time and on remote assistance requirements. Compaq Computer invented the first blade server and now Hewlett-Packard is the leading supplier of blade technology. According to HP product marketing director, John Gromala, "A blade server is a perfect fit for SMBs that are growing at a rapid pace or that want to be prepared for future growth and advances in technology." "Small businesses can use blade systems for simple tasks like sharing files and printers, and deploy applications.” However, many people may lack information on or have misconceptions about blade servers, so below is a list of five items that can help clarify matters on this increasingly popular server option.

Blade servers do not cost more

Many people believe that because the blade server packs so much capability into such a small device, that it must cost more than a conventional server. While the upfront cost may be higher, the actual long-term cost of blade server operation is quite competitive. For example, with blade servers you obviously have the potential to cut down on server room costs depending on just how many servers you use. There are also lower cabling costs since the cabling integrates into the blade server enclosure. Blade servers reduce the time and resources needed for server management, for example, you can access multiple systems simultaneously with the same login. The modularity and flexibility of these servers can save valuable time when it comes to reconfiguring, upgrading and replacement. Organizations can invest the time saved into their core operations.

Blades require more power and cooling

Because of the compact design of the blade server, it tends to consume more power than older rack servers do. In fact, research by IBM suggests that blade servers need about 50 percent more power on average than similar non-blade equipment. The tight fit of blade servers in terms of their internal components and the density of the servers in their enclosure create an environment in which heat can build up quickly. Additionally, the requirement of redundant power supplies for each blade server further compounds the cooling problem. For this reason, not every building or server room is suitable for blade operation. Of course, the greater power and cooling requirements will add to long-term blade server operation costs, but they do not necessarily offset some of the cost advantages of blades mentioned above.

Choice of add-on vendors

One myth about blade servers is that a switch to this technology locks you into a single vendor. Many IT companies would rather not deal with a situation in which they lacked flexibility in upgrading their systems. While you may not be able to swap blades from one company into another provider’s enclosure, you still have options for blade add-ons. For example, IBM works with third party companies like Cisco to enable them to provide add-ons for the IBM BladeCenter system. Other blade server manufacturers like HP and Dell are doing the same thing, so that clients have a choice when it comes to finding add-ons for their systems. One thing we should note, though, is that unlike rack and tower servers, replacement parts of blade servers are difficult to find over the Internet. In most cases, you will have to find replacement components from the manufacturer. Blade servers can have a high failover rate due to their tendency to overheat easily. For this reason, many blades are not hot swappable. Some other components may also have high failover rates, which can be a headache since there are generally no third party options for these parts. Replacing a rack server setup with blade servers may require significant changes to the system although in many cases these will only involve changing settings of existing equipment. Depending on the current server infrastructure, for example, no additional changes may be necessary to switch to a blade operation.

Blade servers can handle heavy workloads

Contrary to a widely held belief, blades are capable of handling tasks that require both ample processing capability and heavy memory or disk access. The availability of more external storage options has largely solved blade technology’s problems with I/O intensive workloads. By linking the blade system with a storage area network (SAN) using an ample data connection, you should have no problem with heavy I/O operations. Additionally, the external storage option provides future scalability. In the early days, blade servers used only their very limited internal storage disks, but today they can connect on high-speed links to scalable external storage capacity.

Blade servers offer greater flexibility

One great advantage of blades is their modular design that allows quick and easy expansion, upgrading and troubleshooting. For example, often problems are fixable simply by swapping a good blade in for a bad one. If you need greater capacity, you can easily add an extra blade to an open slot in the enclosure. If the enclosure is full, then additional enclosures generally can fit into the same or adjacent cabinets. For upgrades, you simply turn the system off and swap in new advanced blades for the old ones using the same network settings. The traditional tower and rack servers required time-consuming configuration of the new server. Blade servers support multiple memory and processor configurations and some allow a choice of I/O settings. For example, a blade system can operate with higher memory for database and document-related work. Alternatively, for operations that require high processing power, like gaming and HD video, the configuration may optimize CPU capacity. About the Author: David Malmborg works with Dell, and enjoys writing about technology. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, the outdoors, and spending time with his family. You can find more information about Dell Blade Servers here.

You can find more information about Dell Blade Servers here

Guest Post By : David Malmborg (Online Marketing Manager, Dell UK)


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