Server Vendors Unsheathe Their Blades

With more offerings coming on the market all the time, customers focus on cost, manageability, and extras.
Suddenly, IT managers have more blades to choose from than a hibachi chef. Now that all the major hardware providers, and several smaller niche vendors, are offering blade servers, companies are looking at cost, manageability, and that little something extra to earn their business.

By the first week of March, Washington University's Genome Sequencing Center will implement an IBM BladeCenter for its research grid. The center chose BladeCenter primarily because IBM was the only provider at the time offering Pentium 4 blade servers. "It's a no-brainer decision; you start with the fastest system available," says Kelly Carpenter, the center's IT manager. "If it wasn't for the Pentium 4, we'd probably have gone with Dell."

For the past two years, the center has been running its grid on several four-way, rack-mounted Dell PowerEdge 6350 servers. Carpenter and his team decided to move to a blade configuration when they saw that they could fit 28 processors in the same amount of rack space that had held just four processors. "Density was the primary factor in going toward blades," he says. "Any way we can reclaim floor space is worth it."

The Genome Sequencing Center will use the BladeCenter servers to continue its work analyzing gene sequences for undiscovered proteins. "We're reading the binary of people" Carpenter says. "It's our job to get this information out to drug companies and to the public."

Although IBM was the first to market with a Pentium 4 blade server, it's not alone. RLX Technologies on Monday introduced its Pentium 4 blade servers -- the 2800i and 3000i -- both of which are expected to begin shipping in March. RLX has also rebranded its blade strategy under the ActivIT brand, which includes servers, management software, and services. A new RLX 600ex chassis holds up to 10 RLX ServerBlades in 6U of space. The ServerBlade 2800i and 3000i are priced starting at $2,400 each, with the 600ex chassis starting at $2,400 as well.

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