ServersHardware Today: Is the Server Blade Honeymoon Over? Page 2

Hardware Today: Is the Server Blade Honeymoon Over? Page 2

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Dude, You’re Not Getting a Dell

As IBM and HP take up the banner as server blade leaders, some vendors fall to the side lines. Dell, for example, has disappeared off the server blade radar screen this year. If you go to Dell’s site, the page for PowerEdge 1655 MC blades comes up as “not available.” Dell does, however, expect to re-enter the market by early 2005.

In Dell’s place have come several established vendors with strong blade offerings. Fujitsu grabbed a 3 percent share of blade revenue with its Primergy BX600, while the Sun Fire Blade Server Platform captured 10 percent market share since its release in early 2003. Sun currently offers 1- and 2-processor blades running Linux or SPARC Solaris.

“Our big seller is a 1P offering that is popular with service providers,” said David Lawler, Sun’s group marketing manager. “This is an edge computing rather than a general-purpose blade. It is most suitable for functions such as Web services DNS, reverse proxy cache, and streaming media.”

Finally, come the dedicated blade vendors: Egenera and RLX. Despite being the first to market as well as being the subject of significant media coverage, neither has more than a 1 percent market share. Egenera, for example, doesn’t even merit a mention in Gartner’s worldwide blade server pie chart. Both Egenera and RLX recently added Intel EM64T to their blades.

Server Blade Options

Vendor Chassis Max No. of
Blades per
Form Factor
Blade Models Processors Targets Vendor Perks
IBM BladeCenter 14 per 7U HS20, HS40, JS20 32-bit and 64-bit Xeon, 64-bit Power 970 High-end, mission-critical deployments Power 64-bit option; IBM’s mainframe experience; Partnership with Intel
HP ProLiant BL e and ProLiant BL p 20 per 3U 8 Xeon DP or 2 Xeon MP per 7U BL 10e G2, BL20p G3, BL30p, BL40p Pentium M and Xeon Low-end edge, and high-performance computing apps Varied approach; BladeSystem manageability; desktop options
Sun Sun Fire B1600 Blade System Chassis 16 slots per 3U B100s, B100x, B200x, B10n, B10p Up to 2 Ultra SPARC, Athlon or Xeon processors; 32- and 64-bit Low-end edge computing and high-performance Choice of Linux or Solaris; choice of processors; load balancing and SSL Proxy blades available
Fujitsu Primergy BX Up to 20 blades in a 3U enclosure BX600, BX300 Xeon MP, Pentium III, Pentium M Low-end and high-performance needs Choice of low-end and high-performance models
Egenera BladeFrame 24 2-way or 4-way servers per enclosure Cblade, Pblade, and Sblade Cblades and Sblades are networking and storage components; Pblades use 32-bit Xeon DP or MP, and Xeon EM64T High end, financial services, with Processing Area Network (PAN) manager software Time in market; well-developed PAN manager; storage and network layers; offers more compact BladeFrame ES model
RLX 300ex and 600ex 24 1-way per 3U or 10 2-way per 6U 800i, 1200i, 2600ie, 2800i, 2800ie, 3000i, 3000ix, 3200ix Pentium III, DP Xeons (including EM64T) Dense blade for those with spatial constraints or high-performance needs Time in market; number of models; variety of processor options; strong, Control Tower management software

Better Management Is Coming

Due to the lack of management flexibility and interoperability issues among the current crop of blade servers, Gartner recommends blade deployments be based on a two- to three-year return on investment. Further, vendor choice should be based on integration with the current or proposed infrastructure to better ensure the blades will play well with the storage and networking environment.

“By next year, we should see some major strides in terms of server blade manageability,” said Gartner’s Enck. “But in any case, test any proposed blade technology to see just how manageable it really is.”

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