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10/15/2004
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SmartAdvice: Consider Limited RFID Adoption As The Technology Sorts Itself Out

Don't retool your factory, but consider limited RFID use as it moves into the supply-chain mainstream, The Advisory Council says. Plus, there's room for blade servers and rack-mounted servers in many IT architectures; and weigh cumbersome against secure in deciding on passwords, biometric-based ID, or some combination for security.

Question B: In what situations are blade servers a better choice than traditional rack-mounted servers? How do you determine when to use one over the other?

Our advice: IT infrastructure choices have become more sophisticated and complex to meet the increasing demands and changing needs of businesses today. Blade servers and rack-mounted systems each have their advantages and disadvantages, and their place in a corporate IT infrastructure. The decision on which approach to use depends on the specific needs and requirements of your business. While rack-mounted servers are ubiquitous, blade-server systems are common in the banking and financial-services industries, and are best suited to highly centralized IT infrastructures.

Rack-mountedd systems have improved markedly over the past five years as manufacturers have responded to customer demands for compact units and simpler maintenance. Systems are commonly available with hot-swap drives, dual power supplies, remote management, and other features suitable for lights-out operations. Rack-mounted servers are close to becoming commodities as prices continue to fall, and there are many vendors to choose from. Sizes generally range from 1-4U (1.75-7.0 inches height), depending on the number of disk drives required.

Related Links

IBM Opens Blade Specs

Blade Servers Gain a Foothold

Stabbing Your PCs



Blade servers are specially engineered PC-architecture systems configured to be a complete unit that can be installed in a specialized data-center cage rack. They offer extremely high unit densities compared with the more common rack-mounted units. Because they're stripped down to the bare essentials, and are frequently deployed with flash memory rather than moving disks, they can offer low maintenance and vast amounts of raw CPU power for relatively little cost. Vulnerable system parts are housed in a data center, so they offer unmatched security and easy maintainability. They're best suited for grid computing and situations requiring tight security and large numbers of identical systems.

Operator connectivity can be through the network to specially designed keyboard and screen systems, or for shorter distances, to KVM switches. Blade servers become a cost-effective option for PC deployment in hospital settings where decontamination of units is required, for example. Replacing a terminal or keyboard is much easier than an entire desktop unit. Blade servers offer low cost per system and reliability because of their modular design.

There's no question that as the demand for reliable and controllable systems grows, the more sophisticated technologies such as blade computers will become more important to a company's IT infrastructure. Since the blade architecture for user workstations requires high-availability, reliable networks, they will never totally eclipse use of the combination of traditional desktop PCs with centralized rack-mounted servers. Since both configurations serve slightly different and complementary functions, there's no reason both cannot be deployed to maximize the efficiency of a company's IT infrastructure.

-- Beth Cohen

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