Mark S.A. Smith has been called a guru for blade technology. But at heart, the president of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based Outsource Channel Executives Inc. is a salesman who sees a huge opportunity.

Blade servers now account for only 10 per cent of worldwide server market sales, according to IDC. up from last year when it was only seven per cent. By 2009, blade servers will be one-third of the market.

And although customers are not buying them in volume, it may be only matter of time before they penetrate into large data centres, and trickle down into the mid-market and into small business.

“The concept of putting a data centre into a box and having it run through one simple software piece,” he says, has a lot of appeal.

One of the benefits of blades is they run cooler than standard servers, which means a reduction in electric bills. An accompanying benefit is a reduction in the wearing down of parts such as hard drives, CPUs and power supplies fried by cooling fan failures.

Blades provide even more savings because they are half the price to administer. There is no KVM (keyboard, video, mouse) and blades reduce wiring by 90 per cent, Smith says citing IDC figures.

Additionally, less floor space is needed for blades, a big factor in high rent districts, he adds.

Morris Maron, business development manager for Insight Canada, is bullish on blades, but says they have to be positioned correctly.

“Where there is a large scale server upgrade or a customer is buying 10 to 20 servers we will propose a blade to them because of the efficiencies and the savings in power, real estate and heat,” Maron said. “Also, if they bought a fair size server bank and would like to add five to six servers, we would position blades as an alternative.”

Maron believes the blade market will continue to grow even though customers are hesitant about the price.

“At first glance there is some sticker shock. But, if you do true total cost of ownership (TCO) you will save initially on cabling and switching, and in year three or four you’ll save on power consumption. It then becomes more economically feasible,” he said.

Blades can also represent a change in philosophy. “It is about control over the machines,” he says.

Forty years ago, Smith said, computer centres reported to CFOs because they were seen as an accounting function.

“In those days, computers were the holy grail. They were housed in separate rooms with a raised floor and their own air conditioning. It was taken care of by a guy named Norbert. He had a mainframe and if you needed something done you had to be nice to Norbert,” he says. The problem with that of. “You lost control,” Smith says. “Before with Norbert you had control. The move back to blades is about regaining control.”

While blades cost more up front, Smith says the more infrastructure that is integrated of. “You lost control,” Smith says. “Before with Norbert you had control. The move back to blades is about regaining control.”

While blades cost more up front, Smith says the more infrastructure that is integrated into the enclosure, the less it will cost the customer.

The break-even point, he believes is at eight servers. “If a customer goes there, they need a blade,” he adds.

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