In the pursuit to attain more performance with lower costs, technology is now about compacting computing power into smaller footprints. And employing a blade server infrastructure is one way of doing that. Blade servers are server computers, optimally designed to minimize the use of space and be more power efficient. The term ‘blade server’ was coined from a card including a processor, non-volatile storage, memory and input/ output capabilities. This was when manufacturers started packaging a whole server on cards/ blades. These blades are then operated independently within the infrastructure of a common chassis, performing the functions of multiple, separate server racks even more efficiently. Blade servers are designed to minimize power consumption, and save a lot of space, without eliminating any functional component that should be part of a computer. They may include as much as 140 thin, modular servers that are often individually dedicated to different tasks.
Compared to rack mount servers, blade servers allow you to achieve more performance while using less rack space and simplifying your cable connections. Moreover, blade servers reduce the overall power consumption. In fact, blade servers can help you save as much as 85 per cent more power compared to conventional servers. However, buying blade servers may also mean trading expansion possibilities to attain a compact infrastructure. They have a limited number of drives and expansion may only be possible through expansion slots. Blade servers are efficient, powerful and compact. But, even the revolutionary approach of implementing blade server has its own merits and demerits.
Benefits of a blade server
As discussed, blade servers allow more computing performance and simplify storage, cabling and system maintenance. However, the advantages are not restricted to just saving space and power. Blade servers allow you to consolidate other related resources like networking equipment and storage as well. Since all of that can now fit into a smaller architecture, blade servers allow building farms of regular servers almost effortlessly when compared to setting up other conventional rack servers.
Blade server can be manged to add load balancing and failover capabilities. While this can also be done using regular farm of servers as well, but since blade servers have a much smaller and simpler architecture, failover management and load balancing becomes easier with them. Moreover, identification of faulty areas by running self diagnostics functions is also facilitated easily by blade servers.
Since blade servers are based on an architecture reduced to bare minimum, it doesn’t need to power other devices like graphics card or a keyboard, and thus save a lot of power. Blade servers also offer the added advantage of managing individual servers within the same chassis. This in turn simplifies server deployment and administration a lot.
Disadvantages of a blade server
Even though plugging and running a blade server chassis is easy, configuring the system initially can prove to be an expensive task for complex application environments. Another factor to consider is the blade chassis cost. Purchasing blade chassis makes sense only if you wish to hold multiple servers and would turn out to be an expensive affair if you need a system with just two or three blades. Moreover, blade server systems are not standardized and vary between different blade server vendors. Since the chassis is what makes the system unique, it is advised to buy a chassis designed by the blades manufacturer itself.