Okay, I’ll be the first to admit. I’m a geek. I’m not an uber-geek, but I’m a geek. When things get slow, I like digging around in the U.S. Patent Archives for hints as to what might be coming next in the blade server market place. My latest find uncovered a couple of “interesting” patents that were published by the International Business Machines Corporation, also known as IBM.

Liquid Cooled Blades?

IBM ColdBlade2United States Patent #7552758, titled “Method for high-density packaging and cooling of high-powered compute and storage server blades” (published 6/29/2009) may be IBM’s clever way of disguising a method to liquid cool blade servers.IBM ColdBlade According to the patent, the invention is “A system for removing heat from server blades, comprising: a server rack enclosure, the server rack enclosure enclosing: a liquid distribution manifold; a plurality of cold blades attached to the liquid distribution manifold, wherein liquid is circulated through the liquid distribution manifold and the cold blades; and at least one server blade attached to each of the cold blades, wherein the server blade includes a base portion, the base portion is a heat-conducting aluminum plate, the base portion is positioned directly onto the cold blade, and contact blocks penetrate the aluminum plate and make contact with corresponding contact points of the cold blades.”

You can read more about this patent, in detail, at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7552758.html

New Storage Blade?

Another search revealed a patent for a “hard disk enclosure blade” (patent # 7499271), published on 3/3/2009, is a design that IBM seems to have been working on for a few years, as this design stems back to 2006.IBM future Storage blade It appears to be a “double-wide” enclosure that will allow for 8 disk drives to be inserted.

IBM future Storage blade2

This is an interesting idea, if the goal were to be used inside a normal bladecenter chassis. It would be like having the local space of an IBM BladeCenter S, but in the IBM BladeCenter E or IBM BladeCenter H. On the other hand, it could have been the invention that was used for the storage modules of the IBM BladeCenter S. You can read more about this invention at http://www.freepatentsonline.com/7499271.html.

New IBM BladeCenter Chassis?
IBM NewChassisThe final invention that I uncovered is very mysterious to me. Titled, “Securing Blade Servers in a Data Center,” patent application # 20100024001 shows a new concept from IBM encompassing a blade server chassis, a router, a patch panel, a RAID Array, a power strip and blade servers all inside of a single enclosure, or “Data Center.” An important note is that this device is not yet approved as a patent – it’s still a patent application. Filed on 7/25/2008 and published as a patent application on 1/28/2010, this patent application lists an abstract description of, “Securing blade servers in a data center, the data center including a plurality of blade servers installed in a plurality of blade server chassis, the blade servers and chassis connected for data communications to a management module, each blade server chassis including a chassis key, where securing blade servers includes: prior to enabling user-level operation of the blade server, receiving, by a security module, from the management module, a chassis key for the blade server chassis in which the blade server is installed; determining, by the security module, whether the chassis key matches a security key stored on the blade server; if the chassis key matches the security key, enabling, by the security module, user-level operation of the blade server; and if the chassis key does not match the security key, disabling, by the security module, operation of the blade server.” I’ve tried a few times to decipher what this patent is really for, but I’ve not had any luck. I encourage you to head over to http://www.freepatentsonline.com/y2010/0024001.html and take a look. If it makes sense to you, leave me a comment.

While this was nothing but a trivial attempt at finding the next big thing before it’s announced, I walk away from this amazed at the number of patents that IBM has, just for blade servers. I hope to do a similar exercise for HP, Dell and Cisco in the near future, after tomorrow’s Westmere announcements.

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  • http://ewan.to/ Ewan Leith

    The only thing I can imagine is (and it's a bit of an oddity), would be to lock-down blade chassis so you can't just take a pre-configured “hostile” blade with pre-built software, networking, etc, and slide it into an existing blade chassis, where you'd suddenly have power and internal network access.

    Of course, the other option is it's a way of letting IBM lock-out non-IBM certified blades from their chassis', “Oh you've not got an IBM security key approved, sorry we can't let your blade talk to our chassis”?

  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    Interesting thought. #IBM 's version of a POD, maybe – that is maintained by IBM services… Thanks for the thoughts, and for reading.

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  • aaronric

    The way I read the summary, this is to prevent someone from bringing a “rogue” blade, or a blade not approved through a change management process, inside a datacenter and plugging it into the chassis. It's an interesting approach to highly secure datacenters, but does not portend a design revelation.
    The liquid cooling was something mechanical engineering was looking at a long time ago, maybe 2003 or so.
    Storage blade is a product that is on again off again.

  • http://www.hp.com/go/bladeblog Daniel Bowers

    This Top-50 list for 2009 might save you some counting:
    http://www.ificlaims.com/IFI%202009%20patents%2

    Here's one reason a patent award might not indicate a pending product: Years can pass (as you've noted) between an initial filing and a final award by the USPTO. That “cooling of high powered blades” patent was filed in 2004.

    And one reason why it could: Patents cost money to file and (now) maintain, at least in the US. That's why tech companies like IBM or HP (disclosure: I work for HP) often “publish” ideas rather than patent them. (That press release I linked also mentions that the USPTO saw the first annual decrease in patent applications, probably because of the economy.)

  • http://twitter.com/hyperviz0r raphael schitz

    As a geek, you might love this prototype http://hypervisor.free.fr/img/ibm_water_cooling.jpg ;)

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  • http://BladesMadeSimple.com/ Kevin Houston

    It's amazing to see the number of #ibm patents at http://www.ificlaims.com/ however I understand #hp would rather save the money and publish the ideas. Good info. Thanks for the comment on patents.

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    I'm amazed that IBM have produced this kind of equipment that will be best suited for those data centers. Similar server racks which are of this kind is good also but this have the edge because of a new technology which is the liquid cooled blades.

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