Sun Microsystems Inc.s N1 Grid Provisioning Server 3.1 Blades Edition is a comprehensive management tool kit that provides robust configuration, automation and management of the Sun Fire Blade Platform. In eWEEK Labs tests, we were impressed with the updated softwares ease of use and server provisioning capabilities, and we recommend it for any shop deploying a large-scale Sun Fire B1600 blade infrastructure.N1 Grid Provisioning Server, released last month, supports only the Sun Fire B1600 Blade Platform. That platform includes the Sun Fire B1600 chassis, Sun Fire B100x and B100s server blades, and Sun Fire B10n load balancing blade. Sun plans to add support for the Sun Fire B10p SSL Proxy Blade in a future version, officials said.For eWEEK Labs review of the Sun Fire B1600 Blade Platform, click here. N1 Grid Provisioning Server is priced at $3,920 per managed B1600 chassis, supporting as many as 16 server blades. The software runs on a dedicated Sun server that is connected to the B1600s management network. For storing operating system images, IT managers have the option of setting up a separate image server. N1 Grid Provisioning Server can be installed on a Sun Fire V120 or V280R server with 650MHz (or faster) processors, 20GB of disk space, 4GB of memory, and Solaris 8 Release 2 or later. The image server can be installed on a separate machine with similar hardware configurations. A separate system is needed to access the Control Center management interface. That system can be any x86-based machine with a minimum hardware configuration of an 800MHz processor and 256MB of memory, running Windows 2000 or Windows XP with Internet Explorer. In tests using the Control Center management interface, we easily configured server blade farms, automated software image provisioning and performed remote server management. We ran N1 Grid Provisioning Server on a Sun Fire V120 server connected to a Sun Fire B1600 chassis via a standard Ethernet switch. We accessed the Control Center using a Windows XP desktop on the same management network. The Control Center provides a Web-based, drag-and-drop GUI that allows multiple users to design, configure and deploy blade resources from a remote desktop. The GUI provides a step-by-step editor that makes it a cinch to put together server farm components. N1 Grid Provisioning Server allows IT managers to set up a multiuser or multifarm management infrastructure and to delegate granular operational rights. Multiple user groups or accounts can be configured and associated with blade resources. In tests, we found it easy to create "super user" accounts, manage server farm activations and delegate hardware to departments. Technical Analyst Francis Chu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms Server and Networking Center at http://servers.eweek.com for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.