The first blade servers were invented in the 1970s. At the time, the first microcomputers were placed on a standard 19-inch rack after 8-bit microprocessor were introduced. By the 1990s, the chassis for the blade structures had been invented, which would eventually lead to the standard setup for a blade server being finalized in 2001.
A blade server functions as any other computer server. Its design is created to help optimize the space and energy requirements it needs to provide services. A blade server features a modular design, which requires an enclosure, for it to operate as it should. Multiple blade servers can be housed in a single enclosure.
Blade servers tend to perform the non-core computer services that most computers offer to their users. They’ll include optional or integrated network interface controllers for storage and data combinations. Because of their lower energy requirements, they make for an excellent web hosting, cluster computing, and virtualization option.
Here are the advantages and disadvantages of a blade server to consider.
List of the Advantages of a Blade Server
1. They are extremely small.
Blade servers are one of the smallest types of servers that is currently available on the market today. You’ll receive the same amount of computing power as you would with any other server type. That makes it the perfect solution for those who have limited space and strong computing needs. From a pure sizing standpoint, the modern blade server is about the same size as the old portable 5.25 floppy disc drives, and some are even smaller than that.
2. They offer a centralized system of management.
Every blade server owned can be connected through a single interface. That makes it much easier to maintain the servers within the enclosure. Monitoring tasks are simplified because everything is tied-in together. You get to go to one location, evaluate the situation, then initiate a maintenance solution. You’re not forced into visiting multiple rooms or locations, like other server setups may require.
3. They require less cabling.
Blade servers are very easy to setup as well. Their sizing makes it possible to create an installation with much less cabling when compared to other server types. Blade servers make it easier to keep the server room organized, reduce your repair expenses over time, and require less attention to maintain at an optimal level. Once you’ve cabled in your enclosure, you can then add or subtract servers based on your current needs.
4. They offer expansion through cards.
Most servers use expansion slots as a way to offer I/O expansion solutions. Even some blade servers provide this option. Most blade servers, however, offer expansion cards as a feature instead. Their expansion “mezzanines” can be customized to meet the specific needs an organization may have for the server, including fiber channels and gigabit ethernet in modern models. It may not be as convenient as other expansion methods, but it does get the job done without an increase in the spacing requirements.
5. They offer easy installation options.
If you need to add a new server to your mix, then adding one to the enclosure or chassis is very simple with the blade server design. You just slide it into the available slot and wire it up. That means you have minimal cabling requirements and there’s no need to deal with a racking issue when you’re ready to scale upward.
List of the Disadvantages of a Blade Server
1. They generate a tremendous amount of heat.
One blade server on its own does not create a heat problem. When you put several blade servers together into an enclosure and have them operating simultaneously, then you can have a challenge to face in dissipating all that heat. Even enclosures built to funnel heat away from the servers can eventually grow hot with prolonged use. If this issue is not addressed, the functionality of the servers will eventually decrease.
2. They come at a higher cost.
Blade servers may offer an economical solution over a long-term time period, but for short-term solutions, they have a higher capital expense. You can purchase rack servers with a comparable amount of power for a cheaper price in most circumstances. You’ll pay higher energy and maintenance costs with rack servers, so the best solution is to go with whatever server type you can afford at the moment. Modern blade servers from dell retail for more than $12,000.
3. They can be inconvenient.
A blade server requires the power to be off for it to complete specific tasks. The process of turning the power off to complete these tasks puts a data center at an inconvenience because it limits access to data. For blade servers involved with web hosting, this feature guarantees that there will be some level of downtime that must be managed. There is also the issue of losing your entire chassis of servers if you suffer a power outage or malfunction, which other server setups can sometimes protect against.
4. They can present expansion challenges.
Most blade servers are limited to 2-4 internal HDDs, even when the servers are being used for share systems to provide storage backups. Compared to other server options, like a tower server, where there are significant areas of expansion possible, blade servers are a what-you-see-is-what-you-get type of option. If you need more space, then you’re going to need to add another server to your enclosure.
5. They tend to have proprietary slots.
When you’re working with a rack server, you’ll generally have access to PCIe slots, which gives you a better level of adaptability compared to modern blade servers. Most blade servers feature proprietary slots, which can make it difficult to take advantage of all the available features for some owners.
6. They can have valuation concerns.
The cost of an HPE ProLiant BL460 Generation 10 blade server today is around $2,500. That places the price right in the range of a business expense instead of a business asset. The problem here is one of how the purchase is classified. There are tax implications for servers that are inexpensive enough to be classified as an expense compared to those classified as an asset, specifically with depreciation.
The advantages and disadvantages of blade servers often focus on scalability and cost. Adding new servers, or swapping out old ones for new ones, is very fast and simple. It’s a chore the average person could do with a minimal amount of training. That means a business can grow when it needs to without experiencing large power, cooling, and spatial costs. There are some flexibility concerns, along with a higher cost, that must be considered as well.