At Veber, we promise to only use the best of breed when it comes to computing and hosting solutions. Therefore, we use Dell PowerEdge Blade Servers for our dedicated hosting and we believe they offer a superior option.
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We appreciate though that not everyone will know what a Dell blade server is or how blade servers differ from other servers used by hosting providers. For that reason, you may not have considered blade server hosting before and your business could be missing out on some great benefits as a result. Which is why we’ve created this useful guide!
A blade server is a stripped-down, self-contained computer that consists of a server rack (known as a chassis) which houses numerous thin and modular circuit boards – server blades. Hence the name! Each of these blades can technically be deemed a server themselves as they can often be dedicated to a single application but we won’t confuse you with that.
Blade servers have been specially designed for performance, saving space, reducing power costs and increased functionality.
Blade servers differ from rackmount servers in that they use a blade enclosure, which can hold multiple blade servers and together these form the blade system.
Depending on the manufacturer, blades will differ in what is included in the blade itself and the blade system overall. Because of the quality of the build and their scalability compared to other vendors, at Veber we prefer to use Dell PowerEdge Blade Servers.
It’s worth noting that blade servers are generally vendor proprietary, meaning that components aren’t interchangeable and you can’t put an HP blade server into a Dell blade server chassis and vice versa.
As efficiency is the key consideration for blades, only core components are on the blade itself so they are not stand-alone. A single blade could have hot-plug hard-drives, memory, network cards, input/output cards and integrated lights-out remote management.
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The blade server chassis has been designed to hold numerous modular components such as a power supply unit, a cooling unit and the actual blade servers. Most are also designed to accommodate multiples of these components as well as other ones such as network adapters and storage modules. This modular design allows the blade server to optimise performance whilst reducing energy costs and size requirements.
The blade chassis also includes consolidated and shared input/output channels. This could include KVM (keyboard, video and mouse), networking and storage.
In this respect, storage is usually not available on the blade and is usually provided by a storage area network (SAN). This will be connected to the blade chassis and the blades themselves will then boot from it. Installation servers are often then used to connect optical disk drives. Blade systems will also include a form of management device that allows for control of some of the functions and monitors the blades.
A single power source can be used for all blades within a blade enclosure. This can either be a power supply housed within the enclosure or as a separate PSU that supplies DC to numerous blade enclosures. This can help to reduce the number of PSUs needed for a resilient power supply.
Blade servers usually include integrated or optional network interface controllers for Ethernet or host adapters for Fibre Channel storage systems. Converged network adapters can also be used sometimes to combine data and storage via a single Fibre Channel over Ethernet interface. At least one interface is embedded on the motherboard in many blades and you can add extra interfaces using mezzanine cards.
At Veber, we often run the risk of taking our Dell blade servers for granted but it’s important to understand the sequence of events and parts that had to come together for them to get to the level they’re at today.
The evolution of blade server technology has quite a long history so we’ll try to be brief! Soon after the introduction of 8-bit processors in the 70s, developers began to place microcomputers on cards and house them in standard 19-inch racks.
Following on from this, VMEbus architecture was developed from around 1981 and was essentially the beginning of the technological concepts that would eventually result in blades. These involved a board-level computer that was installed in a chassis backplane and had numerous slots to plug in boards.
Over the years this approach was built upon until the Cubix-ERS (Cubix Enhanced Resource Subsystem) was created in 1995. This was the first rudimentary attempt to build a system that fulfilled the same requirements as modern blade systems do but it wasn’t quite the finished article. The main issues with the Cubix-ERS were that hot-swap capabilities were lacking somewhat and it wasn’t possible to share many resources.
The real breakthrough came with the CompactPCI and the incorporation of technologies such as hot plugging that allowed it to overcome the limitations that were faced with its predecessors such as the VMEbus. This essentially enabled the commercial implementation of bladed servers.
The CompactPCI bus enabled the creation of a chassis-based computer that allowed individual cards to be added and removed like PCI cards in a modern server, with the chassis as the server.
We still weren’t quite there yet. Finally, when the PICMG standards body released version 2.16 of the CompactPCI specification, the blade server technology that we know and love today had arrived. This allowed for Ethernet to be used to interconnect cards in the chassis and ensured that a server controlling a set of pluggable cards could become an admin unit capable of overseeing a series of independent network servers.
In 2002, RLX technologies and its owners Christopher Hipp and David Kirkeby were granted the patent for the blade server and started producing blade servers and were followed in the market soon after by HP, IBM, Dell and others.
Today, server blades usually contain two processors, are packed full of RAM and can run enterprise workloads and virtualisation. It’s our opinion that Dell have led the market in recent years with their increasingly innovative range of PowerEdge blade servers, which is why we use them for our hosting.
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There are many benefits to using Dell blade servers. These include:
Blade servers continue to evolve as a powerful computing solution, offering improvements in terms of modularity, performance and consolidation.
We use Dell blade servers as they offer a space-saving, lower-cost alternative to rack-mounted systems. As well as being at the cutting edge of server technology, they also keep our data centres neat and tidy and essentially make server management a lot less difficult and increase the efficiency of our hosting services.
However, they do have a few downsides:
Growing appreciation for blade servers has seen them become the fastest growing segment of the server market. This is largely due to their easy configurability and how easy they are to manage.
Virtualisation in computing has been another driving factor behind their popularity. If comparing blade servers to rackmounts, blade servers are the worthy victors. With a blade server, you have the option to combine blades with virtualisation software to consolidate workloads, with each running on its own instance of the Operating System. This means that separate operating systems and applications can potentially co-exist on a single server and users of the system can access more memory and processing power to meet the demands of their workload.
The actual blade infrastructure also lends to greater efficiency compared to rackmount servers because of the consolidated power and cooling, which reduces the number of power supplies and fans required.
At Veber we also value blade servers as they ease server management and increase the efficiency of our expert team when it comes to administration as they require them to physically visit less locations than with rackmount servers.
Whether a dedicated blade server will suit you depends on your individual business needs and the number of servers that you require, rather than the size of your business. If you are seeking any more than four servers, it is definitely worth considering.
Blade servers function particularly well for certain purposes such as:
Really, if your business is going to use different servers for different applications then it makes more sense to combine the servers into one blade server, as it’s a lot easier to manage. In fact, the IT cost and manageability make it a great solution for smaller businesses as well as larger organisations.
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Whilst we’ve detailed the virtues of investing in Dell blade servers, we realise that they won’t be affordable to everyone. The good news is that Veber offer dedicated hosting management services. This means that you can enjoy all the benefits of a blade server without the disadvantages, such as housing the server on your premises and the initial upfront costs!
Veber’s Dedicated Server solutions allow you to have the full resources of a Dell blade server and guarantees maximum performance for your business resources and applications. If you’ve read this guide and realised that you may need a blade server but don’t necessarily have the time or resources to manage one yourself then Veber’s dell blade servers can be the perfect solution.
We handle the cost of building and maintaining our Dell PowerEdge blade servers to improve your return on investment and ensure that you don’t miss out on all the benefits that comes with having a dedicated server.
Blade server systems can offer businesses significant advantages; besides the space they save in data centres. Dell PowerEdge blade servers also offer modularity, powerful remote management and other strategic benefits that can reduce management costs, simplify processes and reduce equipment costs. A dedicated server hosting solution is the perfect way to take advantage of the affordable, customised solutions that they offer without having to pay those initial costs.
The benefits to businesses will continue to grow with advances in blade server technology, including faster processors and innovative virtualisation hardware.
At Veber, we want to give our customers peace of mind with our dedication to using only the best server systems to offer you the right bespoke solution to meet your individual business needs.
If you would like to know more about Veber’s Dell PowerEdge blade servers and how they could help your business, please get in touch with one of our experts today.
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