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Next-generation blade designs fuel booming market

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Blade server sales worldwide and in South Africa have been phenomenal, writes Steve Buck, MD of Edgetec. No new server technology has ever seen the acceptance and growth of blades in recent times.

Analysts agree. IDC notes that the blade server market is the fastest growing segment, is expected to account for 10% of worldwide server unit sales in 2007 and will generate $11-billion in revenue by the time the Soccer World Cup reaches South Africa.  
While blades have traditionally only been used by the bigger South African IT shops, that’s about to change.
HP and IBM have long been vying for top spot in the market, and now the bigger vendors in the blade space are either previewing or about to preview next-generation blades.
The new devices are aimed squarely at the departmental, regional and smaller enterprise segment, placing them in the medium-sized category in South Africa. That exponentially increases the number of companies that will be able to take advantage of the benefits of blades.
They’ve been designed from the ground up to help smaller organisations meet their technology requirements and operate servers, phone and even anti-virus systems – in a single system. Vendors are claiming server farm reductions of 80% in businesses that operate 25 to 45 servers. Even a conservative estimate that halves that number is significant to say the least.
These systems are simpler and easier to install, operate and maintain. They connect to standard electricity supplies found in homes and offices. They manage the storage and processing of up to six blades at a time. They’re designed to integrate those applications most commonly found in medium businesses, such as anti-virus, firewall, voice over IP (VoIP), e-mail, collaboration, backup, recovery, and file and print applications.  
They reduce administration and the associated reliance on what amounts to expensive skills for medium-sized businesses. Initial configuration resembles a home PC setup using software wizards.
Branch offices, such as those which proliferate in the retail and financial markets, can receive pre-configured blades from their head offices that they simply plug in and switch on. That also helps larger organisations that operate branch office environments to centrally control and manage their IT systems.
Of the 25 to 45 servers typically used by medium-size and large local businesses, Gartner estimates that 10 are assigned to perform specialised or single functions. These range from storage and security to Web serving. Integrating them with storage into a single system helps business reduce the physical server sprawl and potentially the number of administrators required to look after them.
That’s good news for growing business in the currently favourable economic growth climate in South Africa. It gives them the flexibility to compete without incurring runaway costs.