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Burned by blade servers, or just getting on board?

Early adopters of blade servers, in general, didn’t give blades rave reviews. As happens with many new technologies, stories about users getting burned — in this case almost literally, as early blades ran hot, hot, hot — have circulated and made some IT directors shy away from buying them.

Well, Burton Group analyst Chris Wolf tells me that times have changed, and buyers of 2007 blade server models should have a completely different experience. I talked to Chris at this week’s TechTarget Server Virtualization Seminar in San Francisco. He says that new products have dealt the early overheating, power, management and configuration problems.’s resident blades expert, Barb Goldworm, has been spreading the word that old blade power, cooling and management issues are being addressed by vendors. Says Goldworm:

“Blade vendors have made great progress in the current generations of blade systems, improving power and cooling efficiencies significantly. IBM says that they have increased the efficiency of their power supplies from 65% efficiency in their 1U servers to 91% efficiency in BladeCenter H. (65% efficiency means that they convert 65 % of the power at the wall and the rest goes into room in the form of heat. In other words, for each 1kW from the power provider, 650 W goes to the server, and 350 W goes into room). Blade vendors are continuing to work on heat issues, with a variety of options for cooling at the blade, rack and room level.”

IT managers need some convincing, however. Rack servers do a good job, they said in our recent 2007 Server Decisions Survey, and most of the 250+ respondents plan to buy more rack servers this year. Less that one-fourth will buy blades this year. Watch for more news about blades and that survey, as I and Matt Stansberry (editor of will be presenting the results at the Server Blade Summit on May 1.

Another survey, by Enterprise Associates, looked beyond 2007 and and indicated that blades will be widely adopted by 2009..

Let’s don’t rely on surveys, though. How about sharing some first-hand experience? Are you one of those who will buy new blades after the technology matures, or did you buy early? Tell me about it in a comment here or via email at

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The best advice I can share about our experience with blade servers is to understand their limitations and they do have them. Have a clear cut plan for their use including what happens when you lose the chassis and all blades are down. Before purchasing, ask hard questions about reasons for choosing blades over other solutions. Compare the costs of all aspects, management, power consumption, proprietary hardware lock-in, space requirements and performance. There are some compelling reasons to chose blades, but I caution you not to be swept off your feet by the sales pitch.