Despite a compound annual growth rate of 19% from 2007 to 2012, blade servers will not dominate, Gartner said. Instead, they will represent 20% of the market in 2012, up from 10% in 2007.
Keeping shipments in check will be a lack of standards and rapid changes in the technology, Gartner said.
"We are not suggesting that IT organizations stay away from blades -- blades do address many problems in the data center," Gartner analyst Andrew Butler said in a statement. "What we are saying is that IT organizations adopting blades need to be prepared for further changes in this technology."
Among the disadvantages of blade servers are proprietary technology and a lack of interoperability standards that tend to lock users to a vendor. "Organizations must recognize that blade adoption needs to be a strategic vendor partnership decision and not a tactical purchase," Gartner analyst John Enck said.
Among the changes Gartner expects to see during the five-year time period include the ability to join two blades into a single logical server. Gartner expects this to become a standard feature by 2010.
Other changes include input/output connections beyond 10 Gb and I/O controls that can aggregate, disaggregate, and prioritize bandwidth to individual blades and virtual machines running on those blades.
In addition, blades will have more flexible storage options, deeper integration with virtualization, and better management tools, Gartner said. Finally, blade chassis interconnects will enable resources to be shared, and memory aggregation will enable one blade to use memory located on other blades in the server.
The current battlefield of blade-server vendors is small and midsize businesses, which have significant volume potential. Hewlett-Packard and IBM, however, are looking to push the technology upstream into high-performance computing.
Global blade-server shipments are expected to nearly quadruple by 2011, driven by the young technology's advantages in flexibility, power savings, and simplified manageability, according to market research firm iSuppli's estimates.
Worldwide shipments are expected to rise to 2.4 million units in 2011 from 620,000 in 2006. Those numbers translate into a compound annual growth rate of 31.5%. By 2011, blades are expected to account for nearly 21.6% of all server shipments.
While the outlook for blade servers has many outcomes, many enterprises today can take advantage of the improved manageability and facilities savings that blades can offer. InformationWeek Analytics' Blade Server Tech Report covers the market as it stands and can serve as a guideline for justifying investments in blade servers. The paid report is available here for download.