The Blade Edge

DQI Bureau
New Update

The Blade Edge

Not just hi-tech lab material anymore, blade servers are gaining

acceptance everyday


The buzz word in computing hardware is 'small form factor'.

Whether it is desktops, portables or servers, the size of the machines are

constantly shrinking. As a result today we see small footprint desktops, ultra

portables, and thin and light servers that defy size and churn out huge

computing power. Welcome to the world of Blade Servers that was once considered

just a 'hi-tech lab material', and is now gaining market acceptance by the


The escalation of blades in the server space has been quite

impressive. Even though they represent a small proportion of the server pie

right now, their application scenarios in compute intensive environments across

the world are growing. What is driving blades are the distinct benefits they

bring to table. For instance, blades bring in high degree of server

manageability, virtualization, simplified network and storage management. Also,

blades consume less power, which translates into huge cost savings for

enterprises. But despite all the benefits, blades are yet to create a big impact

in the mainstream server space. Blade server applications are largely limited to

data centers and high performance computing.


The Market Evolution

Blades are seen as a boon in bringing down server footprint that in turn
will simplify server management. Blades provide more functionality, greater

density as compared to conventional servers. Clearly blades bring in a highly

scaleable, agile computing infrastructure that can be configured as per load

patterns. As computing options continue to grow in the industry standard

computing market, the emphasis is more on scale up vs scale out. Viswanath

Ramaswamy, country manager, System x, IBM India says, "When we talk about

scale up, we talk about the need for additional processors, memory and I/O

thereby increasing a system's computing power. Availability and reliability

are built into the more advanced technology. Scale out, on the other hand, means

the addition of multiple low-end systems in a clustered configuration for

greater performance, availability and reliability of the final solution."

This clearly drives home the point that blade servers are an ideal platform for

the physical consolidation of multiple heterogeneous servers.

The rapid adoption of blades is changing the personality of

servers-offering double the density as compared to 1U rack servers. In the

past the amount of heat generated per unit volume was an issue, but vendors

coming out with effective cooling mechanisms have addressed that. (Calibrated

vectored cooling is a scientific way to keep the temperature of the blades in a

range that facilitates peak processor performance.)

"Enterprises with tower

servers go for blades when they expand for having more working space, and

for consolidated management as well"

-Sashi Kanth,
general Manager,

India Business, Fujitsu

"Blades have evolved

primarily due to growing complexity and maturity of businesses in India.

Infrastructure needs resulting in increased demand for reducing long term


-Suresh Kumar,
head, personal

computing products, Wipro


Blade servers are a natural evolution of server form-factor and

functionality. Says Krithiwas Neelakantan, general manager, systems practice,

Sun Microsystems India, "The first generation of blade servers focused

largely on physical attributes such as server density, that were largely

deployed for edge-tier workloads like web serving, file-and-print services. The

second generation of blade servers brought in improvements in computing

capability and RAS features that have given confidence to customers to deploy

them in mid-tier workloads like collaboration and messaging, application

servers." The second generation blade market has all the trappings of a

trend in the making, because most vendors expect the market to open up in a big


The blade server market used to be a three horse race: with IBM,

HP and Dell battling it out. But a look at the market composition right now

reveals the active presence of other vendors like Wipro, Fujitsu and Sun

Microsystems offering a slew of blade products. The multiple vendors just

reflect the expanding market for blades. A recent Gartner report suggests that

blade server shipments in the Asia-Pacific region will increase at a compound

annual growth rate of 27.4% over the next five years, to reach 168,200 units and

a revenue of $494.3 mn by 2011.


The Indian Scenario

With defined benefits from blades, how is the market panning out in India?
Going by the findings of market researcher IDC India, the blade server market

has witnessed huge growth y-o-y. For instance, in 2003 the market for blades in

India was just about 524 units. During 2004, blades grew by 100% with units

summing to 1,055. In 2005, blades grew in excess of 248% with 3,679 units. For

2006, IDC has projected a market size for blades at 7,000 by the end of this

year. Looking at the growth patterns, blades are clearly ramping up very fast

and volumes increasing. Says Sanjit Sinha, general manager, research, IDC India,

"Blades are poised for good growth with segments like R&D and high

performance computing driving the market. The key advantages of blade servers

are their small and thin form and greater functionality. Our outlook on the

blade market in India is bullish."


Blade servers, by

design, have a positive impact on physical, technical and operational

aspects in scenarios like data centers

  • Lower

    server footprint , saving space in the data center

  • Elegant

    and efficient cabling in blade servers reduce wire-clutter

  • Better

    manageability of the server subsystems

  • Sharing

    of common components like power supplies, cooling units to reduce cost

    and power consumption leading to lower operational costs

  • Longer

    life-cycle of the chassis reducing TCO

  • Better

    RAS (reliability, availability, serviceability) features-higher QoS

  • Easier

    and faster to provision additional computing elements-Agile





India Blade Server Market







H1 2006


Source: IDC India

Key Growth Drivers

  • More

    and more expectation from the IT department to provide higher level of

    service (uptimes) and to have more capacity.

  • Shrinking IT Budgets

    (less spend on administration and resources)

  • Expectation of rapid

    deployments (nobody wants to wait today)

  • Server and Storage


  • Network Consolidation

  • Resource Hungry

    Applications (needing more processor and memory)

  • Proliferation of

    heterogeneous platforms/systems in the customer's data center.

  • Less space needed to

    keep the servers



Says Krithiwas Neelakantan, "There is cautious optimism

among Indian enterprises in adopting blade servers. Most domestic customers have

consolidated edge-tier and lower- level workloads on blade servers. Just as rack

servers gradually supplanted tower servers, we expect blade servers to supersede

rack servers over the next three to four years."

In India companies like IBM have large mandates in this space.

Says Viswanath Ramaswamy of IBM, "We are the leaders in the blade market in

India. From Q4 2003 till Q2 2006, a total of 7,845 blades have been sold in the

Indian x 86 markets, out of which IBM has got the largest share of 5,211

blades." IBM has to be given credit for developing the blade market in

India to what it is today. The company has also built a world-class solution

center in Bangalore which has the capability to test and benchmark applications,

and interested enterprises can get themselves trained on Blade Center

technologies. "It has been received very well by customers who have visited

the center. We would be looking at much larger participation from our business

partners to take this platform to the customers says Ramaswamy.


The Power Savers
One of the biggest USPs of

blades lies in their power saving features. In a large data center

environment, this translates into huge cost savings. For instance, in a 1U

rack mounted server, it is said that close to 30% of the power would be

consumed by the CPU, and followed by memory at 11%, PCI buses at 3%,

backplane at 4% and disk drives at 6%. The remaining 46% was consumed by

the cooling components like fan and power supplies. In a blade

environment, industry experts claim, the 46% power consumed for cooling in

1U servers comes down to 10% as they use common cooling and power on a

shared basis. This brings in twin benefits of less power and better heat

distribution. On the TCO front, a single blade will cost 25% to 30% less

than a 1U server, will be 33% more effective in terms of power

consumption, and will take up half the floor space.

Right now, in an Indian context, the adoption of the blades is

more in the data center environment. According to Suresh Kumar, head, personal

computing products, Wipro, "Adoption of blade servers by large data centers

is faster when compared to other enterprises which have a distributed

architecture. The reason for this is two fold: One, because for any data center

every rack space is a key resource. The other is that a blade server solution

consumes lesser power and thus has lesser cooling load as the cooling and

powering resources are consolidated at the chassis level."

Industry experts also feel that India is a cost conscious market

and in order to boost blade server sales, system integrators and other

technology owners have to look at ways to bring down the initial capital

required. This way the entry barrier is removed and it becomes a much more

attractive proposition for end customers.

Once Indian enterprises are open to adoption of more advanced

server technologies, it will be easier to educate them on blade servers and

assure them of the inherent qualities and reliability. Reflecting on this Sashi

Kanth, general manager, India Business, Fujitsu says, "Indian organizations

may stereotype blade servers as the weaker link when compared to big and bulky

rack servers which they have used and relied upon for a long time. It takes time

to change mindsets as Indian enterprises learn to adapt to newer and more

advanced technologies. Product specialists will have an important role to play

in imparting knowledge in order to create acceptance and confidence in blade


"Standardization of I/O

and certain other components in blade servers can significantly drive

costs down, providing an additional reason for customers to go for


-Krithiwas Neelakantan,

manager, systems practice, Sun Microsystems India

"Blade servers are

slated to contribute at least 15-18% of the x 86 server markets by


-Viswanath Ramaswamy,

manager, System x, IBM India

Computing needs grow as companies expand. When compute resources

such as servers and storage are exhausted, IT managers have to upgrade or

acquire new systems. Exorbitant cost of data center space and utilities force

them to look at high density solutions like blades. With blade servers, space

would no more be an issue, not to mention a host of other benefits such as ease

of maintenance and support.

Blade servers can be used as the standard building block for an

IT backbone. All leading vendors today recommend blade servers not only to MNCs

but also to the SME market in India. Blades on an SME environment have a whole

lot of implications as they can arrive at bigger computing power.

Blades are

increasingly becoming popular, with successful deployments in data center

environments acting as a key driver for growth

Today, justifying the cost of blade servers is less of a

challenge for IT managers compared to the early days when blade servers were

first introduced and were much more costly. The ease of installation and

maintenance makes administration and support much easier. From the application

standpoint, blades provide flexibility and are ideal for virtualization. Each

virtual server can run its own applications.

What emerges at the end of the day is that blades are

increasingly becoming popular, with successful deployments in data center

environments acting as a key driver for growth. With enterprises striving for

simplified server management, they are seriously looking at server consolidation

and workin out strategies for arriving at the best possible server

configuration. Enterprises having many tower servers are expanding their

computing power through blades. They are consolidating their server hardware and

arriving at peak functionality by going the blade way. As industry vendors say:

"Blades are poised for a spectacular future."

Shrikanth G