New hardware on the way from Hewlett-Packard Co., IBM and Intel Corp. will show that blade servers need not be compact versions of their traditional server tower cousins.
Blade servers, which two years ago could be found primarily in one- and two-processor configurations, are growing in variety and giving users more options within the smaller form factor. New systems from HP, IBM and Intel will be no exception.
HP will unveil the ProLiant BL30p, an ultradense blade server equipped with two Intel Xeon processors and aimed for use by small and midsize businesses. The server, which will be available next quarter, is targeted for such jobs as Web hosting, application serving, clusters and grids.
The BL30p keeps many of the same features as HPs larger two-way server, the BL20p—including Fibre Channel and Ethernet connectivity options—but removes features that are less important to smaller businesses, such as SCSI hard drives, said HP officials in Palo Alto, Calif.
The result is a blade server that offers the processing power of its larger brethren but fits in a smaller space. Two BL30p systems can fit into a single metal container, which can then be slid into the same space that a single BL20p occupies. That means a single HP enclosure can double its processing power from 16 to 32 chips, thus enabling a standard rack to accommodate 192 processors.
For small and midsize businesses looking for a traditional server with a tower configuration, HP will announce its ML100, which comes with a single Xeon chip. With this new hardware and a forthcoming push to enlist ISV partners, HP officials said they expect the company to provide more attractive options for small and midsize businesses than rivals IBM and Dell Inc.
At the same time, IBM and Intel hope to show that density need not be limited to one- and two-processor blades. Both companies are preparing to bulk up their respective four-way blade servers with the chip makers new Xeon MP processor, code-named Gallatin, which offers a slight speed bump over Intels current processor and doubles the Level 3 cache to 4GB.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., will outfit its four-way BladeCenter HS40 blade server—which will become generally available this week—with Gallatin chips running at up to 3GHz. The blade is one of several IBM systems that will be upgraded with the new Xeon MP. Other OEMs, including HP and Dell, have promised to refresh many of their servers with the chip, although none is using Gallatins in blade servers.
For its part, Intel, of Santa Clara, Calif., is using the chips in its four-way blade server, which was developed in conjunction with IBM and called the Server Compute Blade SBX44. That server is available now.
Next page: Greater memory density.
The big boost in L3 cache that Gallatin provides means that supporting servers not only will pack a lot of computing power in a relatively small footprint, but they also will provide greater memory density.
That kind of one-two punch is attractive to Tom Clark, MIS director at Rapsheets Criminal Records Inc., which uses IBMs two-way HS20 blade server to host its Microsoft Corp. SQL Server database. Given the high number of queries to the server, memory is a key issue, Clark said.
“Memory can be our biggest bottleneck sometimes,” said Clark, in Memphis, Tenn. “Depending on whats running on [the systems], processing power for speed might not be the biggest issue, but RAM is.”
When the blade servers at Rapsheets Criminal Records start getting overloaded, the tasks are moved to larger IBM xSeries 440 and 445 systems, Clark said. The company has been considering getting more of the larger servers, but with the Xeon-powered HS40 coming out, officials are going to consider that system first.
“If I could get a four-way blade, I would rather use it,” Clark said. “We dont necessarily need speed, we need density. … We need a smaller footprint.”
Blades continue to be one of the fastest-growing segments in the server space. IDC, based in Framingham, Mass., expects the blade server market to grow from less than $1 billion in sales in 2003 to more than $7 billion by 2007.