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Blade servers: small in size, big on energy costs

New research finds IT managers are struggling with energy headaches, and blade servers are a major heat source.

Blade servers, which are deemed the next big thing in hardware, are also a big energy drain in an enterprise, according to a recent study that looks at the latest advances in server technology.

The results of the study by TheInfoPro (TIP) Inc., a New York research firm, reveal that these new server technologies have not provided heating and cooling advantages. TIP recently released the second half of a server study it conducted in 2005. The research examined the concerns of 133 server professionals.

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"Loading up blades in a chassis creates an awful lot of heat," said Bob Gill, TIP's chief research officer.

Despite their intense heat production, the slim servers are indeed a priority for IT managers. According to TIP's survey, 62% of the respondents said they will spend more money on blade servers in the next year.

Gill said blade vendors are realizing that excess power is a problem in terms of energy efficiency, and there is an initiative among them to create blades that are more energy-efficient. A number of groups have suggested that vendors should develop a standard for measuring energy efficiency and then develop technology accordingly. He also noted that virtualization technology would alleviate some problems with power efficiency and consolidation.

Overall, the research found that power and energy pose the biggest challenges for server administrators. Thirty-eight percent of users said power requirements are the greatest challenge to the data center. Thirty-one percent cited cooling requirements, and just over 20% cited heat output.

"It's a vicious cycle," said Gill. "While systems become denser, their energy efficiency has decreased. Devices are getting smaller and smaller, but they are getting hotter."

Power efficiency is also a priority for chip makers. The issue took center stage this month at the Intel Developer Forum in San Francisco. Intel Corp. executives showed off several new chips, including Conroe, a desktop processor that is 40% faster than the current generation while using 40% less power. Intel also unveiled a server processor, Woodcrest, which boasts 80% more power and 35% less power consumption.

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