by June 7, 2002 0 comments



What can you fit in a box the size of a 6 ft. refrigerator? How does 300 servers sound? Impossible or astonishing? It did to us until we saw it with our own eyes. This is the latest trend, called blade servers, being followed by most of the major players in the server market. The idea is to fit more servers in lesser space, and give you more processing power, thereby saving cost. Not only that, but blade servers are also supposed to consume far lesser power than standard box or rack servers, thereby cutting down the electricity bill too. Whether blade servers will take the market by storm or not remains to be seen. What’s interesting now is the technology they use. Here we look at the first series of blades in the market, introduced by Compaq, called the BL10e series.

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The chassis that holds the server blades is just 5.25” tall (3U), 17.5” wide, and 28.35” deep. It can hold up to 20 server blades. You can pack 14 of these in a 42U server rack, therby giving you 280 blade servers. The other advantage is that of power saving. Each blade consumes just 30W of power, which is far lower than conventional servers

Server on a card: At first glance, the server blade looks like that old long ISA card. It’s actually a complete server, containing a special low power Intel Pentium III 700 MHz processor, slots for SDRAM modules (up to 1 GB), and a soldered 30 GB, 4200 rpm, IDE hard drive. A lever in front of the server is used to pull it out of the chassis. Other onboard items include an ATi RageXL graphics, dual 10/100 Mbps Intel 82559 based Ethernet chips, and ServerWorks LELP 3.0 chipset. The board also has redundant ROM for the FlashBIOS

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Books in a shelf or servers? The servers’ blades are fit vertically inside the chassis, like books on a shelf. Each blade server has several LEDs to indicate its operation. Starting from the top, these are the Unit Identification LED with button, server blade health, network activity, hard drive activity, and Power button with LED. At the bottom is a port for connecting the Diagnostic Adapter, which is shown later

Troubleshooting the blade: You can access each blade by connecting what’s called the Diagnostic Adapter to it

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The Diagnostic Adapter has standard ports for connecting two PS/2, 2 USB, a VGA, and a serial device. It also has the same set of LEDs as on the server

You can connect a monitor, keyboard, and mouse on any individual blade to manage it locally, if you’re having trouble doing it remotely

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Tool free design: The server chassis provides tool-free access to all removable parts, which include the power supplies, fans, and the cable management tray

The cable management tray holds two Ethernet ports for each blade, meaning a total of 40. This is basically an integrated switch to provide dedicated 10/100 Mbps bandwidth at each port. It also has a management port, which is used for remote deployement and management. The accompanying software allows you to manage the server through a web browser. Instead of going for a tray with 40 Ethernet ports, you could also go for a tray with one Gbps Ethernet port, making it easy to plug it into your network

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Hot-pluggable fans: You can pull out any of the four fans from the server’s rear without turning it off

Redundant power supply: Each SMPS in the server chassis is rated at 600W, which basically distributes the power to all the 20 servers

The
cost of 20 blades servers, with the enclosure, RJ45 connector
tray, and a rapid deployement pack comes to around Rs 40 lakh.

Anil Chopra

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