Blade servers are a real godsend when real estate in the datacenter is getting scarce, but let's face it, they sure are a hassle when it comes to management.
But now that the leading blade suppliers are in a race to simplify the management infrastructure for their blade platforms, the most serious problems may soon be only memories.
IBM and HP both came out with new management stacks this month, leaning heavily on virtual I/O technology to make it easier to mix and match users with the applications and data they need. A key development in both systems is the ability to automatically assign MAC (Media Access Control) and EHA (Ethernet Hardware Access) addresses, along with WWN (World Wide Name) identifiers when provisioning new blades.
IBM's BladeCenter Open Fabric Manager virtualizes the entire I/O switching process for both Ethernet and Fibre Channel networks on up to 1,400 blades. This lets you install any number of third-party switches that can be optimized for specific network configurations and hardware applications.
HP's Virtual Connect system is said to be easier to operate, putting it within reach of just about any admin who knows the basics of blade management and control. It also scales up to 1,600 blades but generally costs more than the IBM system because it comes bundled with either Ethernet or Fibre Channel hardware.
Server virtualization and consolidation measures, not to mention the requisite migration operations, are likely to make for a challenging management environment for some time to come. Enhanced blade management is a step in the right direction, but ultimately it will be the skill and creativity of your IT staffers that will make the most difference.