Server Update 2006
Blade server adoption rises as technology matures
Although blade servers have a long way to go before they
can supplant rack-mounts, Anil Patrick R finds that the technology has
stabilised leading to significant adoption
blade servers have had their limitations in the past, recent trends point to
significant adoption due to increased maturity of the platform.
This view is also shared by Gartners India Server Revenue
report for the third quarter of 2005. Among recent launches, blade servers
have started gaining traction in India, says Naveen Mishra, Senior Analyst,
Server Markets, Gartner India.
Country Manager, ISS
HP India Sales
One of the most interesting trends on this front is the emergence
of two-way blades as the entry level product. Today two-way and four-way servers
are the de facto choice in most new blade deployments. Two-way blades
have become attractive entry points for buyers looking at blade server options.
For those going in for higher densities, four-way blades are a better option,
explains Rajesh Dhar, Country Manager, ISS, HP India Sales.
As with the rest of the server spectrum, x86 is the biggest driver of the blade-o-sphere
at present. When we take into consideration all the factors on this front, it
is the increased capabilities of x86 and x86-64 platforms along with ongoing
blade/chassis improvements that will drive adoption in 2006.
The increased power consumption to performance ratio
of the new x86 offerings is making blades a viable option in the enterprise.
We will be enhancing the options on this front later in 2006, states Narendra
Bhandari, Regional Manager, APAC, Strategic Relations and Internet Solutions
Group, Intel Asia Electronics.
Other features that are now available on the blade with x86 technology developments
are many such as cluster capability for vertical scale-ups and x86-ready Unix.
When taken in tandem these have the potential of increasing the blade server
adoption during 2006.
x86 on the blade is catching on fast at the moment. The dollar value per
rack rises with these servers, opines Mukund Ramaratnam, Director, Marketing
and Business Development, AMD India.
For a sharper edge
First theres the maturity of x86-64 and the availability of 64-bit Linux,
Windows and Unix for the platform. This has resulted in many 64-bit applications
that were in the RISC domain being ported on to x86-64 and migrated to blade
Interlinked with the first reason is the scarcity of real estate in data centres.
Blades are now capable of packing three to 10 times the computing power vis-à-vis
conventional rack mounts.
Then there are advantages at the processor-end in terms of cooling and power
consumption. Vendors have also been hard at work on their respective blade chassis
for improvements in terms of higher memory management capabilities, easier management,
lower power consumption, and greater value with cooling.
Looking at the issues that plagued blade servers earlier,
they seem to have reduced.
Adoption of RISC and IA-64 blades has been slower
than that of their x86 counterparts. The rise
of cheap commodity x86 servers has largely contributed
Most organisations do not look for high density
RISC environments especially when you factor
in the high costs of RISC blades. With the decreasing
number of RISC options, this side of the blade
spectrum is slow at the moment and likely to remain
so. However, the only hopes on the blade front
in this direction are the expected IBM Power 6
and Sun UltraSPARC T2 processors.
Similarly in the case of IA-64 blades, Intel
is banking on the Montecito dual core Itanium
2 processor launch.
First and foremost are thermal issues. Having so much condensed computing power
equates to the need for cooling systems that can combat the concomitant heat
build up. Next is power consumption, again caused due to higher densities. Noise
was an issue as was the proprietary nature of each vendors blade solution.
This is one of the reasons why earlier blade implementations literally meant
having a dedicated room for blade servers in the data centre. These dedicated
sections catered to the higher cooling and power considerations demanded by
These were some of the limitations that kept enterprises from adopting blade
platforms earlier. This is where the newer processors and blade chassis
First of all, every new generation of x86 and RISC processor
is coming out with thermal envelopes that are smaller than those of their predecessors.
A concern area getting addressed on the blade front
is power consumption. CPU vendors are focussing on squeezing more performance
per watt which is good news for the buyer.
Some of the best examples for these are the new Intel Woodcrest
Xeons and AMD Opterons
The next concern area that is getting addressed is power consumption.
CPU vendors are focussing on squeezing more performance per watt which is good
news for the buyer. Some of the best examples for these are the new Intel Woodcrest
Xeons and AMD Opterons.
Both these x86 platforms come with thermal characteristics that are favourable
for blade deployments. For example, the AMD Opterons have maximum power consumption
in the region of 85 watts with newer versions expected to consume less power.
Intels Woodcrest series has Thermal Design Power (TDP) values in the range
of 65 to 80 Watts.
Packing so much computing power into such limited spaces dictates that
we should focus on reducing generation of heat as well as issues relating to
power consumption. Thats why we now focus more on reduction of the overall
power to performance ratio than just CPU power, says Ramaratnam.
One of the ways in which CPU vendors have managed to achieve this is through
the use of increasing the number of cores per processor. This helps increase
thread-processing capabilities thereby boosting performance without increasing
power consumption or heat generation.
A significant factor this year is that newer versions of both CPUs will be hitting
the shelves. This year is also expected to see a Woodcrest LV TDP that will
sip 40 Watts. With Intel looking at quad-core (expected in early 2007) and even
8-core Woodcrest CPUs, there are exciting times ahead on the blade front.
Blade vendors have also come up with significant enhancements on the chassis
front. One of the interesting developments is HPs Active Cool fan and
Parsec blade architecture. We have been able to achieve a power consumption
of just 100 Watts for eight to 10 fans per enclosure. Our Parsec architecture
has also helped us achieve lower power consumption, explains Dhar. Precision
air conditioning customised for blade environments is also in vogue.
Chassis sizes have come down tremendously. One of the recent examples on this
front is the HP C-class blade series which has a chassis size of 10U.
Virtualisation on the blade chassis is also common now. The main advantage of
this approach is that it is easy to have processing power on demand with the
new generation of blade virtualisation tools.