Blade servers and convergence pick up steam

Blade servers are marching into the data center in increasing numbers -- often dragging converged networking with them

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Last week, IDC released the latest version of its Worldwide Quarterly Server Tracker. Above the fold, you'll find news that the server market is continuing to heat up in a very big way. For the first time in more than two years, all sectors of the server market have posted year-over-year growth in the same quarter (Q1 2011), representing aggregate growth of 12.1 percent to $11.9 billion. This indicates a significant loosening of the corporate purse strings as it relates to server infrastructure purchases.

However, there were several interesting observations below the fold that may signal a significant shift in the enterprise storage and network infrastructure spheres. Chief among them is the significant uptick in the x86-based blade market -- nearly doubling the revenue growth figures posted by the server market as a whole. In fact, over 20 percent of investments made in x86 server hardware went to blades.

With more than 50 percent of the blade server market, HP's c-Class blade offerings have remained very popular. However, readers who have always thought of Cisco as a networking company may be shocked to realize that increasing demand for Cisco's UCS blade platform has moved the company to third place with a tad less than 10 percent of the market share -- a fairly amazing feat given how little time UCS has been on the market. However, it should be noted that Cisco's introductory pricing on UCS has been fantastically aggressive, so it will be interesting to see if it can keep up this pace as time goes on.

Part and parcel to all but the smallest blade deployment is heavy use of network convergence. Buying a high-density blade chassis only to then equip it with a multitude of pass-through modules and do the network aggregation somewhere else rarely makes sense, either financially or from an operational management standpoint. The fewer external network ports you end up burning and the less hardware you need, the better. As a result, many organizations' first experience with network convergence, or maybe even 10Gbps networking, also happens to be when they bought their first blade chassis.

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