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What is a Blade Server?

In previous blog posts, we’ve discussed the different types of rugged servers, including the common rack server. We’ve only ever briefly touched on blade servers, however, and they’re a crucial part of many data centers and programs supporting resource-intensive applications. Despite their compactness, blade servers pack quite a punch, and they can offer outstanding performance to your application. Whether you’re looking to boost processing power, save space, reduce power consumption, or implement a computer system that’s easily replaceable and repairable, the blade server has your back.

What is a Blade Server?

A blade server is a modularly designed server computer that is optimized to use minimal physical space and energy. Blade servers typically lack many of the components of a rack server and only have CPUs, memory, network interface cards, and occasionally storage drives to reduce space and power consumption. Multiple blade servers slide into a blade enclosure, or blade chassis, which provides the ability to fit many servers into a single rack for high processing power.

Blade servers are most commonly used by larger data centers because they have a strong need to maximize space and power capacity utilization and efficiency, have high computing requirements, and can support a higher thermal and electrical load.

blade server

What are Blade Servers used for?

To maximize their efficiency, a blade server is often dedicated to single-task functionality. Examples of tasks a server performs include the following:

  • File sharing. Blade servers can be used to transfer data between digital points or devices.
  • Web page serving and caching. Blade servers can be used to deliver web pages to users and to temporarily store information on the user’s computer so it can be quickly recalled.
  • Secure sockets layer (SSL) encryption of web communication. SSL ensures that information that travels over an internet connection is encrypted and protected from viruses and other malicious software.
  • Transcoding. To display website content across a variety of end devices easily and seamlessly, blade servers can provide code conversion of website elements and mobile SEO.
  • Streaming. Streaming transmits audio and video content without interruption to enable users to view and listen in real-time.
  • Virtualization. Blade servers can be used to create abstract versions of applications or real-life activities for digital use.
  • Storage. The sleeker, more compact design of a blade server allows a larger amount of information to be stored to support a greater number of applications working in unison.
  • Cluster computing. Blade servers are frequently used in cluster computing and server clustering to provide high availability, scalability, load balancing, and failover services.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Blade Server

Blade servers are the newest and the most advanced type of servers in the market. The biggest advantage of a blade server is that they are the smallest type of server available and are great for conserving space.

Advantages

  • Size and form factor: Blades are the smallest and the most compact servers, requiring minimal physical space. They allow more processing power in less rack space, simplifying cabling and reducing power consumption.
  • Simpler cabling: Businesses moving to blade servers can experience up to an 85% reduction in cabling for blade installations over conventional 1U or tower servers.
  • Less time spent on IT management: With so much less cabling, IT administrators can spend less time managing the infrastructure and more time ensuring high availability. Also, in a blade server, you can connect all the blades through a single interface, making maintenance and monitoring easy.
  • Load balancing and failover: With blade servers having a simpler and smaller infrastructure, load balancing among the servers and failover management is generally much simpler.

Disadvantages

  • More likely to overheat: Blade servers are very powerful and come with high component density compared to rack and tower servers. Therefore, heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems must be managed well to prevent overheating.
  • Expensive configuration: Although upgrading the blade server is easy to handle and manage, the initial configuration or the setup might require heavy effort in complex environments.

blade server

What types of blade servers are there?

Blade servers differ depending on the equipment and manufacturer. The most important distinguishing features in terms of equipment include:

  • Performance of CPU: Processors and processing units from manufacturers such as Intel, Sun Microsystems, Advanced Micro Devices, and Motorola are often found in blade servers. These in turn determine how powerful the server units are.
  • Storage media and working memory: For real-time information processing, blade servers depend on sufficient memory in the form of SSD or HDD and good random access memory (RAM). Blade servers combine different RAM systems, such as static RAM, which stores data in its original state, or dynamic RAM, which allows for on-the-fly updates. For servers that rely on processing visual data, DDR SDRAM is usually used as dynamic random access memory with doubled data rate.
  • Connection options: Blade server connections can be made via a token ring, an Ethernet output, fiber optic channels, or a Fieldbus network protocol.
  • Connection options to storage systems: Blade servers can be connected to storage using different port types, including FireWire, SATA, SCSI, DAT, FC, and iSCSI.

Conclusion

Blade servers support virtualization, so you can even use them in a cloud environment. The types of servers offered by a cloud provider depend on the service you leverage, so you might already be using blade servers in the cloud. If you specifically need fast, compact servers, a blade server can be used to deliver fast applications and support thousands of users.

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