What's the best blade server?

Summary:Blade servers were once the saviours of the datacentre. Expandability was king. But do blade servers still make sense today? We find out if they're still worth it.

IBM BladeCenter

(Credit: IBM)

IBM has named its blade enclosure BladeCenter. Those of us using British English will just have to tough it out.

The BladeCenter's chassis is a standard 7RU, the enclosure can house up to six blade servers. It includes a modular slot for a management terminal as well as two other modular slots for other units, such as disk modules. The management module included a CD RW/DVD Multi optical drive along with two USB ports and five status LEDs. The chassis measures 305(H)x740(D)x445(W)mm — not including the rack "ears".

The rear of the unit features four hot-swappable power supply units (each with a small ducted fan), and four larger fan modules (each made up of two 3.5-inch fans). The noise from these fans is relatively low whilst idling (68dBA), but with one of the four modules removed the noise ratchets to 89dBA.

On the rear of the unit are six modular bays used for I/O and management. The modules we were shipped for testing include an SAS connectivity unit, a six-port copper gigabit Ethernet switch and a management module that included two USB, one 15-pin monitor port and a RJ45 network port.

The unit came installed with two HS22 blade servers. The HS22 has two internal 2.5-inch SAS 146GB hard disk drives. Each blade server measures 30(W)x245(H)x455(D)mm.

IBM has integrated its server, storage and networking management tools into the one chassis. The BladeCenter can also accommodate a fully redundant and fully integrated SAS-based SAN, providing an entire virtualised solution in one box that includes servers, networking and storage without having to cable up anything other than external power and network connections.

IBM has gone aggressively down the power-saving path with its blades. For example, the HS22 has built-in sensors such as an altimeter that allows it to optimise cooling based on its elevation. IBM claims that these add up to a 93 per cent improvement in energy savings over its previous generation of rack servers.

Time and again IBM is a favourite with enterprise operators and administrators. Its high quality and labelling consistency always stand out. Rarely is anything ever out of place, and although its products are never flashy, this makes IBM attractive.

When compared to HP, however, IBM's direct blade management and monitoring systems fall behind.

The price of its servers and components is very good. A fully-populated server would be comparable in cost to its non-blade cousins. Its three-year warranty is also very good.

The bottom line Overall, it's a robust solid performer that delivers consistency and quality.
Vendor IBM Australia Ltd
Product IBM BladeCenter S Chassis (AU$4189)
2x BladeCenter HS22 Blades (AU$3259 – AU$6399)
Price of unit tested RRP: AU$31,479
Warranty and support BladeCenter S comes with a three-year customer replaceable unit and on-site limited warranty
BladeCenter HS22 comes with a three-year customer replaceable unit and on-site and off-site limited warranty
The good Consistency across the enterprise
Good honest levels of quality
Excellent labelling
The bad Direct/Physical device management could be further developed
Supports just six blade servers in a 7RU space

Topics: Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Oracle, Servers, Tech & Work

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