Blade servers dominate market by 2009

Bridget Botelho

Blade servers make up less than 5% of the total servers currently installed, but over the next three years, that number is expected to grow exponentially, according to a survey released by TheInfoPro, an independent research network.

According to the study, 66% of survey respondents said blades will make up over 50% of all new server units they acquire by 2009. Already, 34% of users polled said half of the new servers installed in 2006 were blades.

Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) CEO and analyst Dan Twing, said the survey results reflect an undeniable trend for the future of data centers that are simply running out of room and are bothered by overflowing server and power connections.

"Blade servers are the logical choice as people update their servers, simply because they take up less space," Twing said. "People won't necessarily buy a blade server just to have one but they will replace old servers and expand with them."

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Fast Guide: Server consolidation

The advantage of blade servers is that instead of having a number of separate servers with their own power supplies, many blades are plugged into one chassis, like books in a bookshelf, containing processors, memory, hard drives and other components. The blades share the hardware, power and cooling supplied by the rack-mounted chassis -- saving energy and ultimately, money.

Nearly one quarter of the users interviewed in TheInfoPro survey said "server sprawl or unchecked server growth" is their No. 1 problem. The reduction in footprint on the data center floor is the main reason users plan to go with blades.

But many of today's data centers aren't designed to hold numerous servers packed tightly together and could require more cooling and power resources as they add blade after blade, according to Twing.

"Data centers can fill a rack with 25 blades from top to bottom, which creates a lot of weight in that one space. Some of these buildings can't handle that kind of weight and heat," Twing said.

Despite the potential dilemmas of adding blade servers, the respondents in this survey were bullish on blades.

Just a few years ago though, users weren't convinced.

TheInfoPro released a study in 2004 in which users said blades were "an immature and over-hyped technology," but advances in blade servers, a greater understanding of what blades offer and management software have won users over.

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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