Blade Servers and How They Effect Your TCO

Welcome to Blade Server 101, where we will teach you the ins and outs of what a blade server is and how its use can lower the total cost of ownership (TCO) for any business.

First of all, what is a blade server? The best way to answer that question is to compare it to a traditional low-profile dual-processor 1U (one rack unit) rack-mount server. An Intel blade server chassis houses up to 14 dual Xeon servers or 7 Quad Xeon Servers in just 7U of data center rack space.

Because the individual blade servers are all housed in that shared blade chassis, the cost per server reduces with each blade added. This is because the resources of the chassis (power, cooling, cabling, etc.) are shared, and only the core cost of the server is added to the TCO each time a new blade server is added. Compare this to the old method of adding a whole new 1U or 2U rack-mount server for each new application, and savings are obvious. In fact, on average the break-even cost point for a new server is 6.5 blades compared to full 1U Dual Xeon servers and 1.8 blades for 2U Quad Xeon servers.

These are the main ingredients of a traditional 1U server: Ethernet controllers, hard-disk controller and drivers, main logic board with chipset, memory, two processors, support hardware (including power supplies), cooling fans and other components that take up space, generate heat and cost a lot.

Even with all these infrastructure components, the traditional rack-mount server does not contribute to processing, storage or connectivity.

The basics of a blade server include no support hardware, power supplies, or cooling fans. Those ingredients are all included in a box called the chassis. The shared chassis provides built-in network connectivity, including switches that reduce cabling, and a centralized management system for the blade server.

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With these ingredients in the shared chassis, the server – the processors, memory, logic board, storage and connectivity – becomes much smaller in size and perfect to place in a centralized data center.

The blade server slides into a bay in the chassis and plugs into a mid- or backplane, sharing power, fans, floppy drives, switches, and ports with other blade servers. The benefits of the blade server include eliminating using hundreds of cables strung through racks just to add and remove servers. With switches and power units shared, space is freed up, so blade servers also enable higher density with greater ease.

Intel conducted an extensive study in 2004 into the potential benefits of blade servers – which were only three years in the making at the time – and determined that blade servers lower acquisition costs and operational costs for deployment, troubleshooting and repair.

Intel enlisted a company-wide team of experts in areas such as storage area network (SAN), networking, systems management, platform and data center technologies to conduct its study. The team further learned that blade servers also reduce power, cooling, space and cable requirements.

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