Blade Servers: Evolving for the Enterprise
April 21, 2003
A key driver of TCO is the ability to use the devices flexibly and, for that reason, get by with fewer servers, each of which operates at a higher level of efficiency. Eikenberry says that estimates that standalone servers operate at 15 to 20 percent of capacity. Blade servers, when run under an efficient management umbrella, can run at 80 of capacity, she says.
The reason that efficient is so much higher in a blade environment is that the integrated management enables them to be flexibly delegated to specific tasks on an as-needed basis. A side benefit is that management is far easier, according to Eikenberry, because the compute power appears in a single profile to the end users. Management of dozens or even hundreds of blades can be performed with a simple interface. This management approach -- called "virtualization" -- is extremely attractive to enterprise managers, especially in an environment where trained IT personnel are at a premium. "Having a solution for system management is amazingly important," Sauerwalt says.
Getting on the Grid
The integration of blades is rising to the top of the priority list, says John Humphreys, a senior analyst with IDC. He says that there are three key issues driving blades: Reducing power consumption, increasing the density and integration. Integration -- the ability to easily managed perhaps hundreds of servers -- has recently grown to be considered the most important virtue of blade designs by enterprise IT managers, he says. "Power and density fell further down on the list," he said.
Humphreys says that there two levels of management. Each vendor generally has a proprietary level. Some, he says, buttress these with standards-based management such as simple network management protocol (SNMP)-based tools. The two most common are IBM's Tivoli or HP's OpenView.
Insiders suggest that the near-term future of blades will be characterized by increased standardization, higher capacity connections between blades and from blades to servers and other initiatives aimed at increasing the ability to virtualize and otherwise improve blade flexibility. And, while the business is still in a downturn, blade vendors remain optimistic. "Blades are leading the convergence of computing, networking and storage into a single infrastructure environment with a consistent management system," Miller says.