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Are blade servers still too hot to handle?

As seen by most IT managers, blade servers are hot little power-suckers. Cooling hassles and power costs are the main reasons why IT managers don’t buy blade servers, according to the new TechTarget Data Center Group survey of over 250 IT professionals. In fact, most of the respondents’ companies aren’t using blades today. I’ll be presenting that bad news and some good news from our 2007 Server Decisions Survey next week at the Server Blade Summit in Anaheim, Calif., which focuses on blades and virtualization.

While there I’ll be asking blades proponents, users and prospective users about power and cooling issues with blades. Just to give you a preview, here’s a quick look at both sides of the story.

In a recent Q&A with Focus Consulting president Barb Goldworm, I recalled that an IT manager told me he ran only half the number of blades a chassis could hold because the servers would overheat otherwise. Goldworm, author of a new book on blades and virtualization, responded, saying:

“In the earlier days of blades, cooling was a big issue, and many users ran half loaded. The past year has seen significant improvement in power and cooling efficiencies and management. In some data centers, cooling may be an issue; but, in many datacenters, there are lots of things that can be done to improve cooling and allow blades to be easily incorporated in the datacenter. In addition, chip, blade and power/cooling vendors are still working on this issue, with improvements continuing to come.”

Vendors agree with Goldworm, says TechTarget news writer
Bridget Botelho
, and say that blades throw off less heat than traditional rack servers.

IT managers tell us a different story. After visiting a number of data centers, site editor Matt Stansberry sums up users’ experiences with blades servers:

“Per unit, one blade may technically throw off less heat than one rack server, but you clump them all together in a chassis, and they mess up your entire cooling strategy. It’s the same with power. Per blade unit, they demand less power, but the problem data center managers run into is that they can’t deliver all of that energy into 19 square inches.”

Plenty of vendors, consultants, users and prospective users of blades will be sounding off on this subject next week. I’ll let you know what they say. In the meantime, what do you have to say about these hot little power suckers? Tell me so I can tell the bladesters in Anaheim the real story. My email is

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