Opsware, Voltaire, Others Tackle Blade Proliferation

By Jeffrey Burt  |  Posted 2003-03-03

Opsware, Voltaire, Others Tackle Blade Proliferation

While ultradense blade servers enable enterprises to pack more processing power into data centers, by their sheer numbers, they can create a much more complex environment to manage.

At the first annual Server Blade Summit in San Jose, Calif., this week, Opsware Inc. and Voltaire Inc. will each unveil technology designed to ease that management.

Opsware will extend the blade edition of its data center management software suite with an Automated Configuration Tracking feature. The software also includes tools for provisioning, chassis and power management, and the cloning of blades.

According to officials with the Sunnyvale, Calif., company, tracking configuration changes made to individual servers in complete server farms is getting increasingly difficult. For example, an IT administrator who tries loading an application onto a server without knowing that the blades configuration changed could crash the system, they said.

The new automated configuration feature eases setup and deployment of data center blades and then monitors and tracks changes made to each server. The information is funneled to a central console, giving administrators a log of changes made to the servers. It also enables administrators to keep the changes or revert to the original configuration.

Sun Microsystems Inc., which last month unveiled its blade center platform powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Athlon XP-M processors, incorporates the Opsware management software.

Also at the conference, Voltaire, which supplies the InfiniBand support for IBMs BladeCenter ultradense servers, will roll out a second generation of InfiniBand products. The Bedford, Mass., companys routers come in a form factor for blade servers that uses less power—as little as 25 watts—than traditional routers.

The new products include the ISR 6000, which is an IP-to-InfiniBand switch router that includes up to 18 InfiniBand ports; the ISR 9600, a scalable InfiniBand switch for high-performance computing (an area in which blades have a growing presence); and the HC 400 host channel adapter.

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For some IT departments, adopting products that ease blade management has been helpful, but they would welcome more capabilities.

For Matt Sick, server operations manager at IT outsourcer CenterBeam Inc., its easier to manage his blade servers than his traditional systems. The greatest need now is improving the user interface to give administrators an easier and more detailed read on how the blades are operating, said Sick, in Santa Clara, Calif.

"Blades are a relatively new technology," Sick said. "Everyone is jumping on board to get their management stuff in place. The first one to give customers like CenterBeam an easy read into the performance of the blades will probably get some business."

The need for blade management tools is only increasing as more vendors roll out more blade offerings.

Fujitsu PC Corp. in May will announce that it is bringing its 1U (1.75-inch) blade server to the United States. The San Jose companys Intel Corp.-based blade will be sold under the Fujitsu Siemens name.

At the blade summit, IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will announce that it is upgrading its servers with 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz Intel Xeon processors starting next month, and it will introduce a five-year lease for the BladeCenter chassis. Officials said the lease extension, from the current three years, illustrates IBMs commitment to the blade strategy.

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