The dot-com bust may have crushed the initial interest in blade servers, but major computer makers are now championing the designs by touting ultradense systems with more muscle.
Hewlett-Packard Co. this week will introduce the industrys first dual-processor blade, highlighting the push by top-tier vendors to offer designs that are more robust than those introduced last year by startups such as RLX Technologies Inc.
Likewise, IBM is preparing to release a dual-CPU blade system this fall, called BladeCenter, which will feature Intel Corp.s most powerful 32-bit server processor, the Xeon.
HP and IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., are each planning to further power up those blades next year with new designs capable of accommodating up to four processors per blade, as well as more powerful 64-bit processors often relied on to run companies most-business-critical applications.
HPs new ProLiant BL20p series can accommodate 48 blades with 96 CPUs in an industry-standard, 6-foot rack originally designed to hold up to 42 single-CPU servers. Thats far fewer than the more than 300 blades rivals can pack in the same space.
However, officials at HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., contend their blade design offers several advantages, including being processors that operate twice as fast as most current blade offerings and internal SCSI drives, a contrast to many other blade systems that lack any type of internal storage option.
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Each HP BL20p blade can accommodate two Intel 1.4GHz Pentium III chips, two hot-pluggable SCSI drives, 4GB of error-correcting code synchronous dynamic RAM maximum memory and an integrated RAID controller with battery-backed write cache. The BL20p is also the first server blade to offer as much as 144GB of internal storage using two 10,000- or 15,000-rpm hot-pluggable SCSI drives.
RLX systems can pack 324 blades in a rack but use processors that operate at half the speed of the BL20p and feature external storage only.
Blades offer several advantages over older server designs, said Philip Papadopoulos, program director for grid and cluster technology at the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California.
“One of the nice things about blades is that the cable count is significantly reduced, which improves reliability, and also the speed with which you can integrate these systems is faster,” said Papadopoulos, who has worked with a beta version of HPs BL20p. Rather than one network and one power cable per 1U (1.75-inch) chassis, he said, the BL20p operates on one network and one power cable per eight blades, an 80 percent reduction. “Also, he said, “if something goes wrong with a particular machine, we can simply pull it out of the rack and replace it with a spare in a few minutes without having to take the whole system down.”
Larry Scott, at Dollar Rent A Car Systems Inc., said HPs beefier blades are better suited to meeting his business needs. “My interest is not just in total number of processors, but what is the compute horsepower in that unit of rack space,” said Scott, manager of server support for the Tulsa, Okla., company, which uses HPs first blade product, the BL E-Class, introduced earlier this year. Dollar plans to deploy the new HP dual-CPU blades to help run its Web site, Dollar.com, as well as new Web servers, both customer-facing and internal, Scott said.
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