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Blades vs. nodes—which server architecture is better?

January 15, 2020

Blades vs. nodes—which server architecture is better?
What does the future hold for server technology? For years blade servers, or ‘blades’,
have provided a more efficient alternative to traditional rack servers. But are they still the best option for companies looking to save data center space and cut cost?
Blade servers
Let’s talk about what made blade servers so appealing in the first place. Blades are essentially stripped-down servers designed to fit together in a smaller area. This is done to save physical space and reduce power consumption. Blade servers typically only contain a CPU, RAM, network controllers and hard drives, with other core functions like power being handled by the blade chassis (or enclosure). Other benefits include being hot swappable, a reduced number of cables and more processing power per square foot.
So what are the drawbacks of blades? The potential for significant service interruption is higher because, if a blade chassis fails, all servers inside will fail as well. Another issue is future-proofing: blade chassis hardwire connections aren’t powerful enough to support technologies like 32Gbit/s FC or 100Gbit/s ethernet. You also face cooling issues when installing next-gen processors in these servers because of the dense design of blade enclosures. This means you’ll have to compromise by making your blade system much less dense.
Node servers

Then what is the alternative to blade servers? The answer may lie in dense computer nodes, which are more modular and cost-efficient than blades or traditional rack servers. Instead of blades, nodes are employed, which can be added or removed over time to support scalability. This modular platform allows different types of nodes to be combined in a single enclosure for custom solutions for specific needs. Like blades, nodes are hot-swappable, but they can also run next-gen processors and hardware in dense configurations without performance loss due to overheating.

Because of their modular design, ability to scale and enhanced efficiency, nodes are ideally suited for modern businesses looking to support:

  • High-performance computing (HPC)
  • Analytics and big data
  • Web 2.0
  • Private cloud
  • Infrastructure virtualization
  • Deep learning
  • Hyper-converged infrastructure
However, node architecture is not perfect, and, like blade chassis, can be susceptible to significant service loss if the node enclosure hardware fails and redundancy precautions aren’t taken. With that said, it appears dense computer nodes are the next step in the evolution of efficient server architecture and may render blades obsolete. For companies looking for highly efficient converged server configurations that balance performance and capacity with a smaller footprint, lower cost and improved reliability, nodes might be the answer. For more information, contact your Ingram Micro representative.