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Blade servers gain acceptance among enterprise IT managers

Blade servers have gone from an over-hyped technology to a priority purchase for many IT professionals.

Blade servers are gaining respect among IT professionals and finding a place alongside virtualization in the quest to reduce the data center footprint.

New research from TheInfoPro (TIP) Inc., a New York IT consultancy, found that more organizations are looking seriously at blades for their server room and, in many instances, are deploying virtualization projects on blade servers.

The ongoing server study from TIP examines user experiences and their plans for the future in several areas, including use of virtualization, blade servers, server networking and server and systems management. The study asked questions about motivating factors for adoption and time frames for the deployment of various technologies.

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The latest wave of research found that more than 85% of the 130 IT managers surveyed consider blade servers "valuable" or "critical" to their long-term data center plans. This differs dramatically from a previous survey conducted late last year. At that time, 25% of users said they saw little or no cost benefits in blades and did not see the slim servers as a priority purchase. In the most recent poll of users, negative responses about blades dropped to zero.

Bob Gill, chief research officer for TIP, said previous surveys uncovered disappointment in blades among users who were expecting more from the servers. The marketing hype did not match up with the product.

"Now, there is a shift toward pragmatism," Gill said. "People are beginning to embrace blades for what they are -- as simply an alterative form factor to x86 servers. They are not expecting an entirely new technology."

The research also revealed that consolidation is the top server priority among organizations. IT managers surveyed were using virtualization software and blade servers for server consolidation projects and many cited plans to virtualize on blades, said Gill. "Virtualization is still the hottest thing that has come along in a few years," he said. "But blades aren't taking a back seat anymore. There is an increased perception that not everything should be virtualized and there are some things that are more appropriate on blades."

Gill said users' plans are evenly split between scaling applications up through virtualization and scaling out via traditional standalone x86 servers or x86 blade servers.

Louis Foler, a consultant for systems retailer CDW Corp., in Vernon Hills, Ill., said most of his clients virtualize projects on new hardware.

"I like to sell virtualization software with blade servers because the blades are like a self-contained system on their own," Foler said. "Because of this design, these blade centers are like self-contained systems and work great with virtualization technology."

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