The biggest leap forward specifically for blade servers and their enclosures/chassis over the past six years has been the management of the products as well as increased I/O capabilities and options.
But along with blade server evolution we have seen two other key technologies adopted and growing in the enterprise that have undoubtedly aided blades, storage area networking (SAN) and virtualisation. Six years ago, when we last looked at blade servers, SANs were in their infancy, as was virtualisation.
Essentially, SANs have removed the need for having the applications, data and indeed a tailored operating system for the application/data residing on disks internal to the servers, which in terms of blades is potentially valuable real estate, and directly related to their ability to reduce physical server space in an enterprise's datacentre or computer room.
The second is virtualisation, this itself has facilitated the utility computing, or resources on demand nature that blades are ideally suited for, being able to plug in extra blade servers as demand for memory and CPU increases enables administrators greater flexibility than provisioning a whole new stand-alone server and the attendant resources (I/O, management, power, space etc) required. These two technologies have really been the driver behind the renaissance in blade computing. Our opinion is that without these two technologies, blades may have remained a fairly niche product.
While blade technologies themselves can offer flexible options to the enterprise it would pay dividends to clearly ascertain what your requirements are and match vendors to these, be it: platform flexibility, higher density computing, management, performance, redundancy or ease of administration.
To make a realistic choice between all of the vendors on offer here we need to look at the application and environment that the server will be used for. Factors such as the ability to consolidate a number of very diverse systems, saving space, getting the biggest bang for your buck, raw system and application performance and more should be considered.
However, in the end there can only be one winner. Due to its all-round capabilities and suitability to handling the demands of a medium enterprise, or even a development/staging platform for a large enterprise, and also because of its engineering and innovative design, one single vendor takes out top honours in 2009: