Betting the Server Farm on Blades

IT managers look to blade servers to scale up storage options.

As IT managers look for ever-more-efficient server hardware platforms, an increasing number are turning to blade servers.

Although blades arent perfect for every situation—heat dissipation resulting from the density of a blade chassis continues to be of some concern, for example—IT managers who spoke with eWEEK Labs said they are generally pleased with the blade platform and are increasingly choosing it for its performance and value.

Tax software company ATX II LLC, for example, is banking on blade technology from Hewlett-Packard Co. ATX is using blades throughout its computing infrastructure and has 22 blade servers, with about 60 percent attached to SANs (storage area networks).

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read Labs review of HPs ProLiant blade system.

In anticipation of the 2005 tax season, ATX II built a mission-critical e-filing solution on HP blade servers, the HP StorageWorks EVA (Enterprise Virtual Array) 3000 RAID system and Microsoft Corp.s SQL Server. Kevin Levesque, IT manager at ATX II and an eWEEK Corporate Partner, said hes confident the servers will be able to scale, particularly as tax season approaches. "We have seen dramatic performance increases by moving some disk I/O-intensive processes like Lotus Notes, and we are confident of the technologys capability," said Levesque in Caribou, Maine.

Performance increases arent the only benefits IT managers are reporting. With improved management features, blades have come a long way since they were first introduced in 2001. Using a variety of management tools, customers are now able to deploy blade servers quickly, run a variety of applications on the platform, and perform remote management and monitoring. Inc. turned to the Control Tower 6G appliance from RLX Technologies Inc. because of its remote management features, including the ability to access system consoles with or without the operating system running, as well as the ability to remotely build and rebuild blades.

These features are especially important to a financial services company such as, which needs to be up and running 24 hours a day. "The main advantage of RLX and [Control Tower 6G] is our ability to manage the equipment much more efficiently and to a greater extent," said Ken Burns, Yodlee IT manager, in Atlanta.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here for a review of the RLX system.

IT managers also said they appreciate the flexibility of blade technology. The ability to swap blades among chassis makes the technology perfect for disaster recovery, according to Nader Karimi, CIO of the Screen Actors Guild-Producers Pension and Health Plans, in Burbank, Calif.

Karimi began replacing rack-mountable servers in his computing infrastructure a year and a half ago with single and multiprocessor blades as part of an infrastructure redesign. Today, the blades—40 dual-processor blades and 20 single-processor blades from HP—make up about 60 percent of the organizations computing and disaster recovery infrastructure. "I really think blades work well for disaster recovery. In an earthquake situation ... we may not be able to recover our data center, but we may be able to pop our cards out and use them in a recovery site," Karimi said.

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