Blade servers held back by cooling, says IDC

Cooling and power issues are likely to dog blade servers for another two years, but once those have been sorted out, sales should increase sharply

Blade servers are unlikely to be deployed widely across European enterprises before the middle of 2007 when systems management, cooling and power issues should have been resolved, according to research from IDC.

Nonetheless, the market is set to experience exponential growth over the next five years, which will be partially driven by the uptake of pre-configured 'solutions-based servers', such as IBM's BladeCenters, among medium-sized businesses.

The research is contained in a study published on Tuesday by IDC, Western Europe Server Blade Forecast 2005-2009, which predicts that sales of x86-based machines will leap from $539.6m (£299m) this year to $1.74bn by 2009, representing a compound annual growth rate of 40 percent.

This means that x86 blade servers will account for 8.9 per cent of the total server market in 2005 and 25.4 per cent in 2009.

Daniel Fleischer, a senior research analyst at IDC, said: "As management suites become more real, we expect blades to cannibalise rack-optimised systems, although it does depend on how many servers you have. It won't be viable to deploy blades unless you have at least 10 servers or are going for a solution rather than a form-factor play at the high end of the small-to-medium business market."

However, although blade servers have so far mainly been deployed by telcos and financial services companies that are using them to mirror the introduction of specific US applications in their European subsidiaries, the technology is now also starting to appear in more conservative sectors such as retail and manufacturing.

But warned Fleischer: "Cramming more systems into a smaller space means there are heat and cooling issues and we've seen this particularly in the co-location sector, which is coming face-to-face with this in data centres that haven’t been built to accommodate them."

Once these issues have been sorted out, virtualisation technology has become more mature and vendors have released systems management applications to help undertake the dynamic re-provisioning of workloads, however, blade servers will start to be used widely for application consolidation.