Blade server myths debunked

A recent study says that first-generation, high-density, low-power blade computers, while ultradense, don't yield the performance or inexpensive deployment expected of them.

Competitive Systems Analysis, a systems benchmark testing and design firm in Danville, Calif., tested blades from RLX Technologies and Hewlett-Packard (formerly Compaq).

They found that the RLX System 300ex and HP ProLiant BL10e blades, which are based on a low-voltage Intel Pentium III chipset, don't perform well in tests against 1U (1.75-inch) rack-mount servers, such as the HP ProLiant DL360. The study also found that the ultradense blades are relatively expensive to deploy when compared to the cost of implementing standard, high-volume Intel servers.

Saving rack space may not be an equal trade-off for poor performance and high deployment costs.

However, CSA says that blade servers may be an excellent application for InfiniBand, a next-generation I/O transport and interconnect. When vendors such as Dell adopt InfiniBand instead of 10/100M bit/sec Ethernet as the backplane to interconnect their blades, CSA says it will be the death of the standard high-volume server promoted by Intel.

The tests were performed using a Windows 2000-based transaction throughput and scalability tool called Benchmark Studio. CSA found that it takes three blades to equal the performance on one HP ProLiant DL360 with dual Pentium III 1.4-GHz CPUs. The RLX and HP blades run at 800 MHz and 700 MHz, respectively. They each have a single processor and 10/100 M-bit/sec Ethernet adapters.

Further, the study showed that it will cost about US$41,000 to populate a 3U (5.25-inch) chassis with blades. If you assume that it takes three blades to equal one 1U ProLiant, you can purchase an equivalent number of 1U ProLiants for US$24,000. And the net space savings using the ultradense blades is only 50 per cent per rack.

CSA recommends that first-generation, low-voltage, high-density blades should be reserved for Web hosting or application service providers, and not for general application use in typical three-tier Internet infrastructures.

The company advises customers with those needs to wait for second-generation blades from Dell, IBM, HP and RLX.

Dell and IBM will be shipping later this year. HP and RLX have said they will ship second-generation blades before year-end.

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