Gartner Research

x86 Blade Server Platforms: Cutting Through the Hype

Published: 08 September 2009

ID: G00203822

Analyst(s): Nik Simpson

Summary

Vendors continue to promote blades as the answer to data center consolidation, server virtualization, world peace, and sundry other problems. But customers are reluctant to become converts to the "Church of Blades," with blade servers capturing only 18.5%1 of the x86 server market revenues in 2008. Customer concerns include the proprietary hardware, throughput limitations, cooling, and achievable density in a typical data center. In this updated Burton Group report, Analyst Nik Simpson reviews new technologies and the impact of recent announcements (e.g., Cisco's blades and Intel's Xeon 5500) before asking the question, "Do blades make sense for enterprise x86 server deployments?"

Table Of Contents

Summary of Findings

Analysis

  • A Brief History of Blade Development
  • Why Vendors Like Blades
    • Technology Lock-In
    • Profit Margins
  • Why Customers Buy Blades
    • Compute Density
    • Reduced Power and Cooling Costs
    • Virtual I/O Connections
    • Easy Maintenance and Growth
    • Support for Mixed Hardware Platforms
  • Blade Applications
    • Server Virtualization
    • Single Server/Single Application Deployment
    • Grid-Based Computing
    • High-Performance Computing
    • Desktop Virtualization
  • Blade Challenges
    • I/O Bandwidth
    • Memory Capacity
    • Cabling
    • Density
    • Managing Blade I/O Interfaces
    • Power Efficiency and Capping
  • Future Developments
    • Hardware-Based I/O Virtualization
    • Converged, Enhanced Ethernet
    • Scalable External Backplane
  • Vendor Comparison
    • Comparison Analysis
    • Scalability
    • I/O Virtualization Support
    • Server Virtualization Platform Support
    • Platform Longevity
    • Operating Systems
    • Density
    • Storage Options
    • Networking Options
    • Management
    • Support, Warranty, and Consulting Services
  • Recommendations
    • Recommendations for Blade Customers
    • Recommendations for Blade Vendors

The Details

  • Conventional Blade System Design
    • Management Module
    • Shared Power and Cooling
    • I/O Modules
    • Midplane Design and Its Impact on I/O Module Design
    • Blade Form Factors
    • Blade I/O Virtualization
  • Single- and Multi-Root I/O Virtualization

Conclusion

Notes

Related Research and Recommended Reading

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