Blade servers have cooled off as a category, but they still represent an important alternative for many cost-conscious IT shops. Most conversations on this topic start with whether to deploy Windows Server 2008 R2 in a blade chassis or go with a cluster of rackmount systems.
The answer: There is no single answer. It depends on the set of features you choose, along with the goals of the organization. Many lower-end blade servers simply can’t support the features and performance that Windows Server 2008 can deliver. And because Windows Server comes bundled with blade hardware more often than a traditional server, it’s important to know the specific features set offered by both Microsoft and the hardware manufacturer (see Table 1).
Table1: Recommended configuration for blade servers
|Max Physical RAM||8 GB||32 GB||32 GB||128 GB||2 TB||2 TB||2 TB|
|Max Physical CPUs||1||4||4||4||8||64||64|
|Hot Add Memory||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Hot Replace Memory||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Hot Add Processors||No||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Fault Tolerant Memory Sync||No||No||No||No||Yes||Yes||Yes|
Another issue to consider in a blade environment is scalability versus performance. In many cases, a blade environment is more capable of hot-swapping memory or processors compared with rackmount hardware. If scalability is a critical component—and it is in many large environments—then working with a chassis-type infrastructure may be the best solution. Data center managers looking to aggressively expand their environment must know what their hardware is capable of doing and how they can best leverage their chosen version of Windows Server 2008 R2.
One advantage with blades is that administrators can add more CPU, memory and other hardware resources without having to take the machine down. Hardware profiles can be copied from blade to blade, allowing an entire chassis supporting a large user base to be up and running quickly.
But on the flip side, if you are not looking to expand an environment, then working with rackmount servers may be the best option. Since massive computing power is not required, rackmount servers typically offer the robust data center capabilities that larger organizations routinely require.