Data Centers

Pros and cons of mini blades vs. full blades

There are a number of advantages to selecting blades for the server platform in the data center. Yet, there are many obstacles to fully realizing the benefits of this form factor. IT pro Rick Vanover explains the mini blade alternative.

The blade server is great at face value in that there are additional management tools, a reduced space requirement and cost advantages. Many data centers can't take advantage of blades due to the initial investment or the thought that the requirements would never populate the blades to the break-even cost point. Frequently, the break-even threshold is about 5 or 6 blades within a chassis.

There is an alternative with the mini blade. Among mainstream offerings for the mini blade is MDS Micro's Quad V and Dual V server series. The Quad V can deliver four servers in a 2U space and the Dual V can deliver two servers in a 1U enclosure. These servers also have a built-in InfiniBand interface (40 GB/s) for each server to deliver additional storage or networking resources over consolidated I/O. Figure A shows the Quad V server:

Figure A

Figure A

The mini blade offering by MDS Micro is different than the traditional blade chassis in that they are frequently used with consolidated I/O solutions such as Xsigo with an I/O director. Should the servers only need CAT-5 network connectivity and access to the 3 SATA drives (in the case of the Quad V), these servers can work standalone without an I/O director. Each blade also has two Gigabit Ethernet controllers on board.

What the mini blade doesn't bring to the table is the centralized management such as HP Virtual Connect and on-chassis switching, which are common in the traditional blade chassis. This is, however an option for the small blade requirement where two or four servers makes more sense and only standard power connections are available. The servers can be used in blocks to add capacity as well. This means that if twelve servers are required, three Quad V servers can be put in place consuming only 6 U. In traditional blade solutions, this could be a second chassis at between 8U or 10U.

Does the mini blade sound like an alternative for the ultra-dense environment? Or does the mini blade offer a powerful punch to the remote office with small infrastructure requirements? Share your comments below.

About

Rick Vanover is a software strategy specialist for Veeam Software, based in Columbus, Ohio. Rick has years of IT experience and focuses on virtualization, Windows-based server administration, and system hardware.

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