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Ganote needed to get away from directly attaching storage to one-use servers, so he went shopping for a new blade strategy. He started with a new SAN, and the IT team evaluated different SAN vendors before deciding on Compellent Technologies Inc. Switches (built into the backplane) from Brocade Communications Systems Inc. were installed and Cisco Systems Inc. was chosen as their network equipment provider. "From a cabling standpoint, we took this spider web of cabling down to a minimum," he says. Ganote took the project to the next step and virtualized four of the blades. "We actually have more than 12 of our servers virtualized," he explains. (That translates to three or four virtual servers per blade.)

"The timing was perfect for us from a financial perspective," says Ganote, whose shop settled on Virtual Iron Software Inc.'s server virtualization product. When it comes to staffing, he notes, the savings are obvious. "If we didn't have a blade infrastructure and have virtualization in place, I'd definitely need four or five people just to manage the servers," he says.

Charles Falcone is president at Devon Health Services Inc., a preferred provider organization (PPO) in King of Prussia, PA. He was fairly sure blades were too expensive for his long-term IT strategy and when he first saw the cost of the IBM BladeCenter package designed for small businesses, "pricey" was his first

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"But at the end of the day, we thought that, overall, it was a better product than its competitors," he says. For Devon Health Services, it was a matter of available power, says Falcone. "Literally, we were maxed out as to what we had available in our data centers. To bring more power in, I'd have to upgrade the backup generator and that would have been a fairly costly initiative," he says. Like many blade users, the "green movement" motivated Falcone, as well as a data center that was a source of shame.

"It was ugly," says Falcone. "It wasn't something we showed people. We had to clean it up." The company isn't running its BladeCenter at full capacity yet. It holds up to 14 servers, and Falcone is currently running nine of them. "That's taken over for 30-something odd servers" from various vendors, he explains.

Just like NSCU's Chau brags about the power of HP's Virtual Connect, Devon Health Services' lead storage architect Michael Salerno raves about IBM BladeCenter's remote management tool. "With some other systems, you have to run a separate network cable if you're running any kind of remote management system. What's nice about the BladeCenter is that it's already plugged in. You can remotely manage any given server in the BladeCenter via a built-in KVM console, even on a Saturday," says Salerno, who's a member of an eight-person team. "The BladeCenter makes it easy enough for us to be able to focus on new initiatives."

This was first published in July 2008

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