Virtual blade servers appear to be the next big thing to hit the enterprise.
Hitachi just rolled out its latest blade with built-in virtualization, embedding the virtualization infrastructure directly into the blade's hardware. Presumably, this allows it to be partitioned without a lot of third-party software gumming up the works. It also comes with something called Symmetric Multiprocession, allowing integrators to configure multiple blades with various types of processors, namely Xeons and Itaniums, while still operating as a single system.
That kind of flexibility will be a bonus to large data centers, but there is something to be said for managing all these disparate architectures, virtual or otherwise. IBM, for one, recently expanded the capabilities of the Director toolset, which was originally devised as a blade monitoring system. Not only does it offer the Virtualization Manager for Linux and Windows environments, it now offers system management for i5/OS, z/OS and UNIX. Managers who have System i machines working with iSCSI BladeCenter servers and running Linux and AIX partitions should find their lives a lot easier.
We also would like to note the Egenera/XenSource partnership that produced the vBlade management software that now sports the XenEnterprise hypervisor system. With it, you can load multiple virtual servers onto a single piece of hardware, or swap them around depending on your needs and available resources. What you basically have here is a single management environment that governs both physical and virtual systems.
We can only hope that the actual management capabilities being bandied about by all these systems are up to snuff, because the enterprise is about to get a whole lot more complicated.