Blades vs Rack Servers For vSphere

Blade Chassis Vs Rack Servers

Blades Are Sexy!

Are you trying to decide whether to use blade and chassis instead of rack mounted servers for virtualization? Here are the Pros and Cons of Blades vs Rack Servers…

Pros of Blade and Chassis for VMware vSphere

  • First of all Blade and Chassis are Cool, especially UCS! (now that we have that out-of-the-way let’s move on).
  • Uses fewer network ports (2 or 4 per chassis depending on storage type)
  • Uses less power.
  • Uses less cabling.
  • Creates less heat.
  • Uses less rack space (Approx. 10U for 16 blades).
  • Uses less rack space and square footage for higher density DC.
  • Centralized server management.

Cons of Blade and Chassis

  • Cool is more expensive. (1 Chassis, 16 blades, and networking Approx. $300K)
  • Higher density means a larger failure domain (Approx. 350 Virtual Machiness in 1 fully populated chassis would require 2 (3 would be better) more fully populated chassis running at 35 – 70% utilized. Remember when you maintenance these chassis, the VMs need to be vMotioned somewhere or powered off.
  • Huge hassle when doing firmware upgrades of chassis, blades, and other chassis components.
  • Networking and storage configuration can get tricky requiring training staff.

 Pros of Rack Mounted Servers for vSphere

  • Per server is cheaper (2 sockets, 24 core, 192 GB memory – Approx. $16K).
  • If something fails, a smaller failure domain is easier to evacuate 1 host server (25- 30 VMs).
  • Nothing new for DC staff to learn (easy setup).
  • Easy firmware and driver upgrades.

Cons for Rack Mounted Servers

  • Uses more network ports.
  • Uses more power.
  • Requires more cabling (copper/fiber).
  • Causes more heat (high cooling bill).
  • Uses more rack space (2 – 4U per server).
  • Lower density per square foot of DC.
  • Individually managed servers (more IPs).

Blades vs Rack Server Conclusion:

First, let me apologize to all my friends at Dell and HP, but I need to be honest here. There’s obviously a sales benefit to blade and chassis over rack mounted servers and that’s why many sales reps will push them.

If blade and chassis are already an established hardware standard then it’s a no-brainer to stick with the standard, however, if you are being sold blade and chassis right out of the gate and your IT operation is smaller than 1000 VM servers consider that HA will require spanning blade servers across 2 – 4 chassis. This is the main reason why the best servers for virtualization may be a rack server solution.

Rack mounted servers aren’t sexy but they’re much easier to scale capacity at a lower cost.

It can be frustrating when you’ve purchased your first two chassis with 4 blades per chassis, and then, later on, find out the blade server technology has changed and now requires you to purchase upgrades for the chassis in order to use new generation blades. This is a real world example and is an important fact to consider…

Here’s my simple formula:

  • 1500 VMs or more – blade servers are the better solution and remember to plan for multiple failure domains, maintenance mode, and upgrades.
  • 1000 VMs or less – rack mounted servers are a better solution and remember to build enough extra capacity into your environment to allow a host to be evacuated.

Best Blade Servers for VMware

Cisco UCS Blade Servers (Refurbished)

#1 Best Choice
Cisco UCS-E140S-M2/K9 UCS E-Series Single-Wide Server Blade (Renewed)
  • Type : Blade for Single-Wide
  • Management Ports : 1x DB-9 console port, 2 x 10/100/1000 Management ports, 1 x USB port
  • Compatibility : Cisco UCS E-Series M1 Servers
  • Designed for : UCS E-Series
  • Part Number : UCS-E140S-M1/K9, UCS-E140S-M1/K9=, UCS-E140S-M1/K9-RF
#2 Best Choice
Cisco UCS 5108 Chassis with 8X B200 M4 Blade Server, Per Blade (2X E5-2683 V3 2.0GHz 14 Core, 128GB DDR4, 2X 2TB 7.2K SAS 12Gbps 2.5 Drives, VIC 1340), 4X 2500W PSUs (Renewed)
  • 16x Intel Xeon E5-2683 V3 2.0GHz 14 Core 35MB Cache Processors
  • Per Blade: 128GB DDR4 ECC Registered Memory (4 x 32GB)
  • 16x 2TB 7.2K SAS 12Gbps 2.5 Hard Drives - XY986
  • 90 Days Warranty
#3 Best Choice
A-Tech 32GB KIT (2 x 16GB) For Cisco UCS Server Series B200 M2 Blade B230 M2 B440 M1 B440 M2 C200 M2 C210 M2 C220 M3 C240 M3 C460 M1 C46. DIMM DDR3 ECC Registered PC3-8500 1066MHz Quad Rank RAM Memory
  • 32GB KIT (2 x 16GB) DIMM DDR3 ECC Registered PC3-8500 1066MHz Quad Rank RAM Memory
  • Genuine A-Tech Memory
  • Lifetime Warranty
  • Designed For Cisco UCS Server Series. (See Compatibility List Below)
#6 Best Choice
Cisco UCS Server Series B200 M2 Blade B230 M2 B440 M1 B440 M2 C200 M2 C210 M2 C220 M3 C240 M3 C460 M1 C460 M2. DIMM DDR3 PC3-8500 1066MHz Quad Rank RAM Memory - 8GB KIT (2 x 4GB)
  • 8GB KIT (2 x 4GB) DIMM DDR3 ECC Registered PC3-8500 1066MHz Quad Rank RAM Memory
  • Genuine DDR3 Server Memory
  • Supports Triple Channel.
  • Designed For Cisco UCS Server Series.
  • Lifetime Warranty
#7 Best Choice
parts-quick 8GB Memory for Cisco UCS B-Series B440 M1 Blade Server DDR3 1333MHz PC3-10600 ECC Registered Server DIMM
  • Capacity: 8GB
  • Form Factor: 240 pin DIMM
  • Speed: PC3-10600R Registered DDR3 1333MHz
  • Halogen Free; ROHS; Warranty: Lifetime

You may also want to learn about the best desktop for virtualization.

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