By PowerBuy // 18 March 2015 // Related Categories: Tips

Mid-sized organisations can be the poor cousins of the business IT world. They often need more than the budget technology that small businesses use, but can’t afford the high-end enterprise solutions that could help them grow or become more efficient.

That has certainly been the case with blade servers, which traditionally have only populated large data centres. However, with the likes of Cisco and Dell now selling more affordable models, mid-sized businesses can enjoy the high-density computing power and efficiency they offer.

What is a blade server?

Blades are similar to rack-mount servers. They’re designed to be neatly stacked in purpose-built racks to save space and make it easier for technicians to work on them. However, blades take this approach further – each server is pared back to the essentials and shares common resources such as a power supply and cooling fans with other systems in the enclosure.

This configuration means you can fit a lot of computing power in a small space. Blades are also designed to be efficient to manage, typically offering a centralised interface for configuring all your servers.

Traditionally, each blade was used for a different task – a file server, application server and email server, for example – which could be wasteful as some systems lay idle at times while others worked hard. However, blades now typically support virtualisation, so you can pool the computing resources of multiple servers for maximum efficiency.

Are blades right for your business?

One downside to blades is their proprietary technology, so you have to buy all the servers, enclosures and ancillary gear from the one vendor. They also often require technicians with specialised expertise in that vendor’s blade technology.

Blades can be expensive, although new models like Cisco’s UCS Mini are more affordable. UCS stands for Unified Computing System, Cisco’s architecture that allows servers, storage and networking to be bundled into a single solution. Cisco claims the total cost of ownership of a small-scale UCS Mini setup is 40% less than a comparable rack-mount system. The Mini is also much more space-efficient, at around half the width of a regular blade server.

Spoilt for choice

Of course, you need to do your own costing and you may find that if space isn’t a problem, a rack-mount setup is the best solution for your organisation. If you don’t need multiple servers, a regular small-business server might be fine. And then there’s the other alternative – the cloud. It might be perfectly feasible to remove an on-site file server and use infrastructure as a service (IaaS) instead, or replace an email server with software as a service (SaaS).

The key point is the affordability of some new blade servers means that more businesses have more choices – and mid-sized organisations no longer have to be poor cousins.

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