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.

Sun Blade

(Credit: Sun)

Sun is at home in the enterprise datacentre, so it makes sense that it is in the blade server business too. Sun nominated its Blade 6000 enclosure and Sun Blade X6270 servers for this review.

The 6000 chassis is a 10RU product that can house 10 servers, but there is not a great deal of space saving there; however, Sun's pitch is that it is more about the flexibility and ease of management rather than saving space. Indeed, Sun offers blades housing its own Sun UltraSparc processors, AMD Opterons and Intel Xeons.

The front of the unit is taken up with 10 large server module bays and two fan "drawers".

The X6270 server blade uses the Xeon 5500 series Intel processors. Each blade supports up to two of these and each blade also supports four 2.5-inch hard drives, which are accessed from the front of the unit. The rear of the unit provides access to a compact flash enabling boot images for virtualisation environments (similar to the Dell).

Sun claims that its unique multi-architecture chassis offers the most diverse choice of platforms within a single 10RU chassis. This enables AMD, Intel or Sparc CPUs within the same chassis to deliver Windows, Solaris, Linux, VMware solutions and so on.

Sun's approach to delivering blade I/O via dedicated PCIe ExpressModule cards allows simple delivery of complex I/O environments. Addressing can be decoupled from the blade itself as MAC and WWN addresses on the I/O cards are effectively assigned to slots. This means that the administrator can change or swap a server without needing to make any changes within the network or storage fabric.

Overall, Sun presents a very impressive blade solution, particularly for those enterprises looking for flexibility over density. Costs are excellent and it definitely competes with its peers. Sun's warranty and support is interesting; rather than charge support for every individual element of a blade deployment, Sun has a very simple model of paying just once on the chassis alone. Whether you choose to deploy one blade or 10 and irrespective of the types of blade or I/O options being deployed, the cost for support is the same.

The bottom line Sun presents a very flexible and cost effective solution.
Vendor Sun Microsystems
Product Sun Blade 6000 enclosure (AU$9000)
2x Sun Blade X6270 (AU$3767)
Price of unit tested RRP: AU$16,616
Warranty & support One to three years, 24/7 with two- or four-hour response
Support methods: email, web and telephone
The good Very well priced
Good support package benefiting heavy users
Flexible processor choices and servers all supported within one blade enclosure
The bad 10 servers in 10 rack units, does not really create denser computing

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

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