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Proprietary tech will dull blade server growth

Beware of changes, says soothsaying analyst

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While gazing into its crystal ball, Gartner has reached a spectacular conclusion about the future of the blade server market:

Proprietary hardware is a pain in the ass.

The analyst house warns that although it expects blade servers to continue selling gangbusters for the next five years, a combination of rapid advancements in the technology combined with lack of standards will ultimately stunt its growth.

Buyers need to be aware that all this proprietary nonsense means blade adoption presently needs to be approached as marriage to a particular vendor rather than mixing and matching based on blade technology.

Major vendors such as Dell, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, and Sun Microsystems all lock in their hardware. Because blade servers are still a rapidly changing technology, this will further aggravate the problem in upcoming years.

"We are not suggesting that IT organizations stay away from blades — blades do address many problems in the data center," said Andrew Butler, veep at Gartner. "What we are saying is that IT organizations adopting blades need to be prepared for further changes in this technology."

Gartner predicts a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 19 per cent for blade shipments from 2007 through 2012. That would make blade servers continue to be the fastest growing segment of the server market, but not the largest total. In 2007, blades represented 10 per cent of shipments. Gartner projects this will rise to 20 per cent in 2012.

Over the next two years, the analyst firm expects faster fabric speeds at 10Gb and beyond, improved I/O controls that can prioritize bandwidth to individual blades, and blade server aggregation. Gartner also believes vendors will increasingly embrace the virtualization options for blades. ®

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