Blade Server : Panacea to Energy Efficiency

DQI Bureau
New Update

When blade servers started making news roughly a decade ago many thought it

is geek stuff. But when computing majors like HP and IBM started providing blade

servers, the industry sat up and took notice. The data centers and HPC

environments that used to tower servers saw a change in computing infrastructure

as small form factor blades changed the power performance equation. The

escalation of blade server in recent times has been pretty impressive. According

to industry experts, blade servers are changing the very personality of data

centers. Because it assumes significance in the data center environment, blade

servers brings the server footprint down. By virtue of this, it ushers in a high

degree of simplified server management. Despite the small form, one of the

biggest areas blade servers score over is full functionality; moreover, it

offers more density required for unscheduled scaling demands in dynamic

computing environments. If we look at typical data centers, one primary

challenge is the processing power required for managing compute-intensive

applications, so the infrastructure has to be such that it can take unscheduled

load patterns. Typically, in a blade server environment this is easier to manage

by simply adding more blades.


Market Dynamics

Right now, blade servers are predominantly bought by the data centers, where

the requirements for compute- intensive computing hardware is a dire need. With

concepts like cloud computing on the fore, there is an increasing reliance on

robust and agile IT infrastructures and hosted environments like data centers.

In creating an agile computing infrastructure, blade servers assume a

significant role. The key driver that will contribute toward blade server

adoption is the concept of scale up and scale out. Scaling up is nothing but

adding additional computing power through processors, memory and I/O, thereby

increasing a systems computing power and making it highly available and

reliable for that particular task. Meanwhile, scale out is nothing but stepping

down the computing power, as that particular task does not require set

configurations. Clearly, scaling up and scaling down is a key deliverable of

blade servers, as it makes physical consolidation of the server environment


Industry experts say that blade servers are capable of providing as much

computing power as other servers, and at costs comparable to traditional

servers. Blade servers have seen reasonable success in the Indian market

primarily as a result of their space and cost saving features, however, the

deployment of blades has been mostly confined to large enterprises and data

center environments. The SMB opportunity is emerging. Research firm Gartner has

predicted that the growth for the blade server market will be limited through

2012, due to delays with interoperability standards.


Quips AL Jagannath, general manager, marketing, Sun India: Today blade

servers are being deployed in India across verticals such as BFSI,

manufacturing, telecom and biotech, in addition to those such as petroleum and

energy. This clearly depicts the increasing demand for blade servers. Experts

aver this adoption due to the blade servers meeting the vertical- specific

demands and moreover they have been designed to reduce server size and share

common components like power supply across a bunch of compute elements.

Customers who see the benefits of specific applications on blade servers at

lower footprint sizes are adopting them.

We certainly

believe blades are growing fast, and this year they will get even more

widespread adoption among all markets. There is increasing recognition that

blades are more energy efficient. Together with virtualization, they offer

tremendous savings to customer data center environments

Pallab Talukdar,

director enterprise business, Dell India

Today blade

servers are being deployed in India across verticals such as BFSI,

manufacturing, telecom and biotech, in addition to those such as petroleum

and energy. This clearly depicts the increasing demand for blades

AL Jagannath, general

manager, marketing, Sun India

Green computing becoming a major trend augurs well for blade servers.

Businesses already face a wide range of challenges as 2009 makes way. While

cost-cutting moves may dominate the headlines, many companies will be focusing

on making wise investments that both reduce costs and enable them to better

leverage technology. Moreover, the IT and communications sector is in the

spotlight with the need to reduce carbon emissions. For long, the IT sector has

been contributing a fair share to the climate change and for other deteriorating

effects on the environment. Gartner estimates carbon dioxide emissions related

to the operation of servers and PCs account for 0.75% of the annual global

total, and that is before factoring in emissions generated by cooling the boxes.

An environmentally responsible outlook is the need of the hour and this year

enterprises will have to adopt focused, more efficient systems to save money and

time. Here blades server will definitely have an edge.


Says Jagannath, The Sun Blade modular systems can help enterprises respond

quickly to changing business needs and deliver high service levelsall while

reducing management costs, conserving data center floor space, and reducing

their power and cooling costs by up to 50%. We can help organizations build a

much more cost-effective IT infrastructure based on Sun Blade systems to meet

the demanding business requirements tomorrow.

According to Pallab Talukdar, director enterprise business, Dell India, We

certainly believe blades is growing fast this year and will get even more

widespread adoption among all markets. There is an increasing recognition of the

fact that blades are more energy efficient among all servers. Together with

virtualization, it offers tremendous savings to a customer data centeran

important factor especially in the current business environment. Dell has

launched 10 GB blades in January 2008 and the company says that it has got

tremendous success during last four quarters of 2008. Dell says this has been an

important part of the success it has seen in the servers and storage market in

India during the last twelve months.

Vendors like HP aggressively target the blade space, and HP is the market

leader. As per 2008 DQ Top 20 findings HP attacked the x86 blades with great

aggression. A 300% growth, from 2,800 units the previous year to 7,500 units in

FY 08 signifies a massive ramp-up by HP in the blade space. This aggression was

due to its market-development focused product design for the segment. Over the

year HP drew both value and volume in the server market. It sold 4P and blades

in the value market and developed markets. HP sources say that it will adopt the

same strategy for the ongoing year. HPs aggressive growth is attributed to the

breadth of products it has and to product affordability. Other vendors like IBM

too are taking on the blade market.


Meanwhile, IBM provides Blade Center in different configurations. Vendors

like IBM are scratching the SMB opportunity as well. While it is an emerging

opportunity, it has started happening. IBM, for instance, positioned its blades

only for large enterprises but off late it is focusing on SMBs as well. The SMB

value proposition for blades comes by virtue of the blades ability to fit in

one chassis with multiple blades instead one tower mounted server making it

lucrative for SMBs.

Advantages Galore
Blade servers, by design, have a

positive impact on physical, technical and operational aspects in a data

center environment:

Physical Advantages

  • Lower server footprint, saving space in

    the data center
  • Elegant and efficient cabling in blade

    servers reduce wire-clutter

Operational Advantages

  • Better manageability of the server

  • Sharing of common components like power

    supplies, cooling units to reduce cost and power draw, hence lower

    operational costs
  • Longer life-cycle of the chassis reducing


Technical Advantages

  • Better RAS (reliability, availability,

    serviceability) features leading to higher QoS
  • Easier and faster to provision additional

    computing elements leading to agile computing
  • Modular design ushers in higher

    flexibility of compute deployments within the chassis with different CPU,

    I/O and interconnect types co-existing seamlessly

Going Forward

Today all leading vendors have what is called the blade PCs. This will be a

key element for virtualization using blades. In a PC environment blades can be

added as per application demands of the virtualized environment. However, it has

just started. Clearly, blades are going to play a key role in various computing

scenarios. If we look at the server form and functionality, in the initial days

blades core USP was its server density. But that changed over the years with

blades getting the reliability, availability, and serviceability features.

Today, blades has evolved further by offering modular computing features like

increased scaling, in and out compute, power cooling, I/O, interconnects have

all been de-coupled to service, upgrade, and the user can swap them independent

of each other.


There is a momentum for blade servers in India. The market for servers is

showing robust growth. Several customers are on the verge of refreshing their

servers and tackling the server sprawl. Moreover, given the paucity of power in

the country, customers will see the benefits of adopting blades as they see

better performance and features than rack servers. Standardization of I/O and

certain other components in blade servers can significantly drive costs down.

This will provide an additional reason for customers to pursue blade server


If we look at the market dynamics, the vendor landscape is getting extremely

competitive. Four years back the market used to be bi-polar with HP and IBM

battling it out. But after the initial hiccups Sun is once again targeting the

blade servers market; add to that Dell with its own blade server offerings. This

makes for a very heterogeneous market landscape and numerous options for the

customers. The data center opportunity will also expand considerably in 2009 as

these facilities by virtue of increasing demand for hosted applications will

refresh their server infrastructure leading to a major intake of blades. What

emerges at the end is that despite a small proportion of the server market,

blade servers are making their steady ascent and adding their might to the power

and performance of computing infrastructures.

Shrikanth G