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Martin MacLeod, a London-based consultant who authors a blog on blades in his spare time, says users are being inundated with an impressive range of options from vendors trying to take advantage of the consolidation and virtualization craze. He has dedicated a spot in his blog for "peripheral blade vendors" as technologies converge. In his practice, he often fields questions about purchasing and chargeback, he says. "The first blade encounters all of the cost: the new enclosure, the power supplies and the switches," he says. "So if HR requires another blade, do we need to buy another enclosure? Is that an HR cost or an IT cost?" (See "Buying tips," below.)

Scott Lowe specializes in virtualization for ePlus Technology Inc., a reseller headquartered in Herndon, VA. For many of his customers, says Lowe, blade servers have no real impact on storage unless they're being coupled with virtualization. Because they're so popular, and so much of the sales pitches around blades highlight the simplicity of buying and using them, Lowe sees some users underestimate their impact.

"I've seen a lot of customers not think about it," he says. "You need to realize that a blade is a bona fide, fully fledged, fully independent piece of hardware. You need to incorporate that into your design just like you would any other switch or server."

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Buying tips
  1. The SAN: Check with vendors about prerequisites for a diskless server or server boot over SAN options.

  2. Ask your vendor if there's a set storage requirement per blade. Will it ever change?

  3. Ask which level of tech support will be provided. Is there a different level for Fibre Channel users?

  4. Request a vendor compatibility/interoperability matrix. Blades are a proprietary technology.

  5. Will you need disk drives on your server blades? Are they hot swappable?

  6. Don't assume that a fully loaded blade system won't cost as much to power and cool as a fully populated rack. Ask vendors to help with projected power needs and possible savings.

  7. Determine which remote management features will be included in the price. Some may be priced on a per-server basis.

  8. How many blades are supported in each chassis? Will you need a second blade center to support your growth strategy?

  9. Find out whether special power connectors or cabinets will be required.

This was first published in July 2008

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