Hidden costs of blade server deployment?

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DataCenter
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ROI & cost justification
Servers
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Am researching the potential value proposition of deploying blade server technology in a mid-sized manufacturing company. Goal is consolidation. Am interested in finding out what you think the advantages will be and what hidden costs I should watch out for.
ASKED: September 28, 2005  12:12 PM
UPDATED: October 26, 2005  4:54 AM

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Two things are going to bite you with balde servers. Power and Cooling. It is typical to need a 10-15KVA UPS for a balde chassis, and the device will need on the order of 5-8 tons of cooling. Think of all the power and cooling a room with 8,10 or 16 servers would need, and squeeze that into a 6U form factor. Airflow must be deliberately managed in the cabinet, or around the chassis or you WILL have blade failures.

APC put out a nice white paper on delaing with blade servers. They are of course trying to sell their cabinets, but the facts are sound.

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  • Byimw02
    If the goal is consolidation, have you considered the iSeries and logical partitions ? IBM is aggressively positioning iSeries as a consolidation solution.
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  • Cordth
    VMWare has a commercial product that can be deployed across multiple servers. In addition a SAN SCSI or fiber connection would be needed. I've seen 12 servers on 2 VMWare boxes. I think it is the ESX product. It's expensive, but for consolidation across say.... 3-4 servers with SAN connection for 16-24+ standalone servers it will work. I wouldn't recommend any Citrix servers to be part of it. In addition, VMWare recommends at least 2 GB of RAM per processor.
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  • Taney2000
    We have deployed HP blades. We have a Full blown datacenter that was designed for an IBM mainframe, so cooling is not a factor for us, but they do put out a lot of heat. The second item is power. To run what we run, which is 5 enclosures that are fully redundant we had to use 2 PDUs. That meant we needed 4 - 30A - 3phase curcuits for the enclosures. I beleive that IBM is pretty much the same way. The other thing is the network connections. We are a Cisco shop so we looked at the Cisco switch modules, but it came out to over $600 a port where we pay about $90 on the Cisco switchs. So I would check for cost for port and make sure you have the density to support it. Other than that they have been execlent performers. We have SQL, Citrix and standard tope servers on them.
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  • Jayjay01
    Reconsider again getting blade, not worth. Though, it can support 14 servers but getting one internal server will cost a bomb. If anything goes wrong all servers are useless. Secondly option for upgrade is limited, technology change periodically. Better to get an 1U server...this is my opinion.
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  • BigBlueArc
    Many medium/large enterprise environments are today consolidated into BladeCenter's and/or larger multi-cpu servers, where both types are targeted to run virtualization software as well. So what is the driving force for this ? 1. Savings in power, cooling and physical space in datacenters, fourteen 1U/pizzaboxes has approx. 50% higher power consumption and need for cooling than 14 Blade's in a BladeCenter and additionally takes double the space of a BladeCenter enclosure, and that's a fair amount of money in a year, especially if you today is in a spot where the datacenter has to be expanded in one way or another. However there are some drawbacks, which means that if you utilize the BladeCenters higher density and smaller "footprint" in the datacenter you may be forced to redesign the airflow and power cabling to handle the more dense environment. 2. Cost savings in hardware and installation, since Blade's in a BladeCenter shares common hardware you often find that you will reach a break even in hardware costs already with only 3-5 Blade's in the BladeCenter compared with traditional rackoptimized server boxes. 3. Cost savings in expansion, expanding the BladeCenter with an additional Blade at some later point, is definately more easy and cheaper than adding a serverbox in a rack, all cabling and other infrastructure is already there, only insert the new Blade and "clone" one of your existing Blade's and you're up and running. So even if a Blade is somewhat more expensive in purchase it will alltogether be cheaper in the end. 4. Cost savings in management, BladeCenter's form a very homogeneous environment managed with common tools, however there are some drawbacks in this area since a BladeCenter normally (in larger enterprises) involves several competencies (server, storage, network..) which all are used to use their own selected tools to manage their part of the enterprise and this can evolve to be a problem if not approached correctly when introducing BladeCenter's in the organisation. 5. And why not run virtual server solutions on the BladeCenter as well, even with a rather low consolidation ratio f.ex. 3-4 servers/Blade this will be a nearly ideal environment for all the functionality the virtual server solution provides you with. But as someone already pointed out, not all applications are candidates to be hosted in a virtual environment. 6. Redundancy, BladeCenter's is constructed with redundancy in mind, however it could be a good idea to have a second BladeCenter enclosure with Blade's clustered between the two enclosures, but again that depends on SLA's and other strategies that you might have in your company. Some last comments: - Since Blade mounted options as f.ex. local disks not can be "hot-swap" (without loosing significant space in the BladeCenter), you should really consider to run somekind of virtualization or cluster software in (or between) your BladeCenter(s), if not the application already is redundant in some other way. - As you probably already is aware of there is a struggle between different vendors on the market where I should recommend selecting a vendor that supports the "BladeCenter Alliance" which to my opinion aims to create an open standard and where you should expect to be able to use a wide variety (at least theoretically) of parts from different suppliers in the selected BladeCenter. Selecting an vendor that supports open standards will probably lower your cost in the long run.
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