What the Heck Is a Blade Center or Blade Server Anyway?

Many of us techies live, eat, and breathe within the technology sector, but due to the vastly expanding universe of tech we are often unaware of some of the hardware that is available to us. For others, this is old shoe – like penny loafer old or saddle shoe “old shoe.”

Considering that IT brokers and resellers are trading equipment every day among millions upon millions of servers, parts, substitute part numbers, branded versus OEM equipment and so on, it is no wonder that there are terms we may be unaware of. So, for those of you who just want to know what a darn blade center is, here is the deal.

Without getting into what a VMEbus is and all that fun stuff, back around the 1980s, engineers were looking for a way to have multiple servers, processors, and RAM built up in a smaller space unlike the traditional 1U, 2U, 4U rack mounted server configuration. Instead of having wide server construction that was 1U/2U or greater in height, they flipped the servers on their side, thinned them out, shrunk the planar (motherboards,) and bulked up on processor speed. Now, you have to house those thinner, smaller, “blade” servers in one central unit. Boo-yah! We have the “blade chassis.”

These individual blades slide or plug into a chassis backplane/mid-plane depending on the configuration. There are several manufacturers with this technology such as Cisco, Dell, Fujitsu, HP, IBM, Oracle formerly Sun Microsystems, and the list goes on and on.

Now, these servers need to be able to connect, or “talk,” to each other. So, the center or chassis will have switches and management modules to configure. If you are using Ethernet or fiber channel cards in the blades then you will need the appropriate options for the entire chassis. The chassis itself will require large power supplies and strong blowers needed for cooling.

You can add storage to these units as well. The blades typically will hold two 2.5″ drives and at times the chassis will carry external drive bays or storage as well. Bottom line, these bad boys are loud. If you fire up a blade chassis, you don’t want it running anywhere near a telephone, because the sound of those blowers will drown out any conversation you attempt to have.

A piece of unsolicited advice, if you are looking at purchasing a blade center of any kind – if you don’t know what you need, be sure to buy from someone who does.

Source by Renee McCloden

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