As organizational needs grow, the technology spectrum gets even more complex. In essence, it is a server chassis housing multiple thin, modular, electronic boards known as server blades. Each of them is a server in its own right, often dedicated to a single application.
Literally on a card, it contains processors, memory, and integrated network controllers, an optional Fiber Channel host bus adaptor (HBA) and other input/output ports. Enterprises adopting blade server technology experience nearly 85% reduction in cabling for installations over normal infrastructure and experience high availability.
Also known as a high-density server, it is typically used in clustering dedicated to a single task, such as, file sharing, web page serving and caching, SSL encrypting of web communication, transcoding of web page content for smaller delays, and streaming of video and audio content.
Power Management and Conditioning
This assists power management and conditioning, where UPS units can accommodate more servers, as due to space and saving, they are more efficient. As with everything, there are many disadvantages of the blade server technology. An expensive configuration, economies of scale, vendor lock-in, more heat, and a reduced business case especially meant only for web hosting and e-mail.
The vendor lock-in can be a major hassle. Usually meant for large enterprises, if a substantial amount is spent on the technology, then switching between vendors can be difficult due to licensing agreements and other sellers are unlikely to have the same arrangement.
Also, in order for a particular blade to be utilized suitably, all server space has to be used. When a system is installed, there is also the danger that it can become obsolete in the next few years. If a manufacturer introduces a new hardware add-on, then the unit may not be compatible and the efforts of the buyer go waste.
Blade Server Setups
Proprietary technology is a disadvantage of the blade server setup. Organizations have to recognize that adoption is a strategic decision and not a tactical short-term purchase. Although technology analysts usually find business rationale for the blade server in data centers, more flexible storage options, deeper integration with virtualization, and better management tools can make them more effective.
Blade servers are potentially useful in small and mid-size businesses, where the market is rapidly growing and is volume-driven. Worldwide shipments are seeing year-on-year growth, and the potential for the technology is bright.
With more than a decade since their introduction, enhanced design can potentially outstrip power supply constraints. This potentially means that blade vendors involve a price/performance trade-off.
IBM, Cisco, HP, Dell, and Sun have leveled the playing field and launched new product lines frequently. Although blade server technology is now maturing, enterprise traction will lead to further evolution.
Blades have to drive business innovation and reduce sprawl. Traditional infrastructures need to give way to more converged setups, thus creating a more robust and complete setup.
There are still many skeptics. Accepting blades as the de facto standard can be cumbersome, as storage needs will evolve further. Also due to multiple factors mentioned above, server technology still has a long path to tread before it is more mainstream.