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.

There are two additional products from Sun and Dell that Enex feels should also be presented, but unfortunately they didn't arrive in time for this review.

Sun is at home in the datacentre. Now that it is owned by Oracle we hope that its ambitions in the enterprise market will not abate. Blades make a natural case for an organisation like Sun because its clients traditionally seek space saving and higher performance capacity per rack unit.

In 2003, Dell was the best solution for an office that needs a powerful solution with more storage in our blade server test. It is interesting to see where it has come since then, albeit on paper.

As with most reviews, vendors always have to scramble to get their latest and greatest products to the lab in time for testing. But in many cases vendors may not even have such brand new technology in the country yet (particularly for larger enterprise products).

On other occasions the few evaluation units they might have available to loan (think of the enormous cost of lending kit such as this) are already being used in a corporate or government evaluation exercise. So we, and the many other organisations that are eager to see such exciting new products, will often need to take a number and be patient.

Editorial deadlines are always a time challenge. Moving heavy, delicate and expensive technology quickly around the country is never simple. Vendors will always try to make their most up-to-date product available, but getting brand new (or even prototype) products ready in time is difficult. We're often informed of a new and improved model that will be available "really soon" if we could only wait a few more weeks.

Many of the products that Enex reviews for you are pre-release versions and may be mere ghosts of what will finally be released and for sale.

Dell M1000e

(Credit: Dell)

Dell's latest enclosure is the M1000e, its Xeon 5500 equipped blade server is the M610. The M1000e consumes 10RU of space, which means that in a 42RU rack, only four of these can been installed.

What it takes up in space it compensates for in capacity, supporting 16 blades. The design shows that Dell, like HP, has taken the next step in blade generations.

The front of the unit is mostly taken up with the blades, while there is a small and innovative interactive colour LCD management module that flips around on the base of the device. There is also two USB ports, a DB15 monitor connector and power button/status LED.

The rear includes six redundant power supplies, nine large fans and several modular I/O bays. Also on the rear is an integrated KVM switch, and chassis controllers.

The M610 blade server is a half-height design, which packs the new Intel Xeon 5500s, and doubles the memory capacity of its predecessor. An interesting feature of the M610 is its ability to take an SD or internal USB connected memory device with an embedded hypervisor. This enables an administrator to load instantly into a virtualised environment. The front of this blade provides access to two 2.5-inch SAS hard disk drive bays and has a power status LED, two USB ports and a power button.

Dell makes a bold claim that the M1000e is the most power efficient blade solution on the market. It states that the M1000e takes advantage of thermal design efficiencies such as ultra-efficient power supplies and dynamic power efficient fans with optimised airflow design, which enables better performance in a lower power envelope.

Dell's FlexIO modular I/O switch technology enables scalability providing additional uplink and stacking functionality. Its centralised management controllers provide redundant, secure access paths for administrators to manage multiple enclosures and blades from a single console integrated KVM solution. This has been a mainstay solution of the Dell blade server family. Dynamic power management provides the capability to set high/low power thresholds to help ensure blades operate within assigned power envelopes.

A medium to large enterprise looking to move a number of servers to a virtualised environment would find the M1000e enclosure and the M610 blades ideal. The pricing as often with Dell is very attractive as is the warranty at three years on-site.

The bottom line The Dell M1000e enclosure and the M610 blade server appears to be a well designed next-generation blade solution.
Vendor Dell
Product Dell M1000e enclosure
Dell M610 blade server
Price of unit tested RRP: AU$16,258
Warranty and support Three years
Support methods: on-site, phone, online
The good 16 servers in 10RU space
Innovative management features
The bad Very large, only four chassis per rack

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

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