Do You Need Small Business Server Blades?
"There is often a misconception that blades only make sense for huge companies that require hundreds of servers," said Komac. "This is simply not the case."
His logic is this that when a company buys a small business server, it requires more than just a box. It also needs to have cables, space for the server, power, switching for the server, and of course, it has to take the time to install all of that, in addition to managing it. While blades are probably not a viable option if you only need one or two SMB servers, they start to make financial sense for small business computing once you need four or more physical servers, according to Komac.
HP Blade Servers
HP probably offers the most extensive range of blade servers: The BL280c is a basic blade server with a powerful processor, 2 GB of memory and a starting price of $1,509. According to HP, this is good choice for SMBs that want to consolidate all business applications, messaging, and file sharing into a bladed environment at a low acquisition price.
A good way to begin is with the HP BladeSystem c3000 Starter Kit. It has only one part number (580250-SBB), making it easy to order. According to HP's John Gromala, the kit costs $9,999, a savings of 22 percent over buying the components separately. It includes a c3000 Enclosure, a networking switch, power cords, power supplies, fans, a DVD drive and two HP Proliant BL460c G6 blade servers, each with 4 GB of memory.
"The result of using blades over traditional servers is you do more with less: less power, cooling, datacenter footprint, management, head count, and servers to buy," said Gromala.
IBM Blade Servers
The IBM BladeCenter HS12 has a base price of $1,289. Like HP, the company offers a wide range of blades. Broadnet Teleservices, for instance, chose IBM. In conjunction with reseller CDW, it initially looked at products from IBM, HP and Dell.
"IBM BladeCenter and its blades appear very expensive on the surface," said Brown."They cost about three times as much as comparable individual hardware but the savings in time and support should mean the return on the investment within a year. IBM's leasing program provided an easy way for us to buy without negatively affecting cash flow."
He cautioned, though, that server blades are not for non-server-room environments. Not only are the power requirements onerous, they are so loud that Broadnet had to isolate one IBM BladeCenter unit in its own space.
"They sound like jet engines, but in the end, they are more reliable and easier to maintain than any other system I have worked with," said Brown. .
Fujitsu and Dell Server Blades
If you require quiet blade servers, Fujitsu offers the BX600 blade, which starts at $1,720. "The BX600 can be an excellent choice for space-constrained customers and is very quiet in operation," said Richard McCormack, senior vice president of server and solutions business, Fujitsu America.
Finally, Dell offers real value and often features special deals on blades in its website. The M605 costs $1,099 for a model with excellent AMD processors and 2 GB of memory. IBM and HP might struggle to compete with those prices.
Komac noted that not all blades are created equal and prices will vary. This is partly due to the cost of the blade itself, but also based upon the chassis it requires as well as the supplemental drives and the memory or processors you may require for the systems you plan to run on it. These items should be itemized before comparing solutions between vendors.
"Because some manufacturers require a new chassis for each new blade model they produce, businesses should look at the flexibility of the blade system as a whole before making a decision," said Komac. "If you need to continually upgrade the chassis as you scale up your data center with blade servers, that will become a cost factor."
Drew Robb is a Los Angeles-based freelancer specializing in technology and engineering. Originally from Scotland, he graduated with a degree in geology from Glasgow's Strathclyde University. In recent years he has authored hundreds of articles as well as the book, Server Disk Management by CRC Press.
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