April may be known for its showers, but in the IT world it's also known for new hardware. And this year, the focus is on blade servers.
No doubt, manufacturers are looking at the latest forecasts, which have blades taking over half of the server market by 2009, driven largely by the growing desire for virtualization, consolidation and centralized management.
Hitachi came out with the newest BladeSymphony server for the mid-level enterprise, offering up to 10 two-socket quad-cores per chassis in a 6U frame. While Hitachi has made relatively modest headway in cracking the North American market with its enterprise-class servers, the company is hoping that its use of Xeon processors and Windows Servers will do the trick.
Meanwhile, Sun offered a demo at the Intel Developer Forum of a four-socket blade designed to slide into the Blade 8000 chassis. The system will use the quad-core Tigerton Xeons capable of 128 GB of memory. A two-socket system using Intel quads is due by mid-year.
The Sun devices are the first of what is expected to be a long line of Xeon-based devices, most likely a response by Intel to finally make nice with Sun following the earlier release of the Netra line of Opteron-based servers.
But even as blades continue to draw fans, the backlash may already be starting for some. Custom server builder Aberdeen LLC, of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., has what it calls the Blade Killer. It's essentially a two-server unit that fits into a 1U chassis. With each processor node capable of supporting two quad-core Xeon 5300s, you get 16 processors per unit, which provides a whopping 673 cores on a single 42U rack. It also offers the ability to quickly install an extra RAID card, just like a traditional server.
New blade technologies are certainly a welcome sign for increased processing power at the data center. But as more blades go into tighter and tighter configurations, we're still waiting for the equally important issues of heat and power consumption to be addressed in a meaningful way.