Upgrading Your Blade Servers For Free

No, this isn’t click bait.  You could possibly upgrade your blade servers and it could actually end up saving you money (and theoretically be free.)  Let me explain.

It’s no revelation that the newest Intel CPUs are better performing  – that’s a given.  However you may not truly realize the advantage of moving to newer blade servers with Intel Xeon SP processors, so let me break it down for you based on a recent “real-world” example.

As part of an exercise to show a lower cost of ownership, I took a look at a customer’s environment and found they had 30 Dell PowerEdge M610 blade servers, 26 Dell PowerEdge M710 blade servers and 50 Dell PowerEdge R710 rack servers.   These servers are part of Dell’s 11th Generation servers that were available in 2011 so they are roughly 7 years old.  The systems had a variety of Intel Xeon CPUs ranging from a 4 core L5520 to the X5650 6-core CPU and memory ranging from 12GB to 144GB.  In total we had 106 servers in their existing environment.  Based upon existing warranty support, I speculated these 106 servers would cost about $5,103 per server per year in support costs or $540,922 for 5 years.  Factor in power and cooling cost of $100,840 per year plus cost of floor space of $43,271 and costs of administration of $318,549 and the 5 year total to support the existing environment was estimated to be $1,004,030.

In this particular environment, the customer was happy to continue with the same overall performance as their existing systems provide so our proposed solution was to collapse the 106 servers into 10 PowerEdge R740 rack servers plus 9 PowerEdge M640 blade servers each running Intel Xeon 4108 CPUs and 384GB of RAM.  This equaled a 5:1 server consolidation ratio.   The estimated acquisition cost came to about $9,666 per server / year plus $2,920 per server / year for a support level equal to the customer’s existing servers.  We also, for the sake of fully evaluating the upfront costs included around $5200 per server per year for migration of data.  In summary, the overall upfront costs we calculated came to $339,139.  We also saw a reductions over a 5 year period in: $32,448 in power and cooling as well as $8,745 in floor space.  Costs of administration remained at $318,549 simply because the customer’s administrator-to-server ratio was 200:1.  If you are good at math then you’ve figured out that the overall costs of supporting a refreshed environment for 5 years is $698,889 – a $305,141 (30%) savings.

5 Year Analysis Old Server Environment  New Server Environment Difference
Acquisition Cost N/A $183,663 +$183,663
Hardware Support $540,922 $55,486 -$485,436
Migration Services N/A $100,000 +$100,00
Sub-Total -$201,773
Power & Cooling $100,840 $32,448 -$68,392
Floor Space $43,721 $8,745 -$34,976
IT Administration $318,549 $318,549 $0
Sub-Total -$103,368
Grand Total: -$305,141

There are a lot of defaults and variables in these findings, however the primary customer variables used:

  • Power and Cooling: 9 cents per kilowatt-hour
  • Data center floor space: $61 / sq ft
  • IT Admin (FTE) salary cost: $60,000 per year
  • FTE to server ratio: 1 admin per 200 servers

I’ll be perfectly transparent with this data.  This was a high level exercise to show the overall potential savings therefore it did not include detailed server quotes.  UPDATED 3.1.2018 – I used some internal Dell EMC tools (one in particular – liveoptics.com ; special thanks to Sam Kirchoff).

In reality some of the numbers could fluctuate slightly, but I believe it is a big enough savings to drive interest in evaluating servers with current generation CPUs.  As you may have noticed, I didn’t even factor in savings in licensing that could be seen by reducing physical core count with Oracle or VMware licenses, so the customer’s overall savings will be greater than shown.

Take this blog post to your boss and tell ’em you found a way to get free blade servers then thank me later.  As always, thanks for reading and feel free to send me your thoughts in the comments below.

Kevin Houston - Founder, BladesMadeSimple.comKevin Houston is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of BladesMadeSimple.com.  He has over 20 years of experience in the x86 server marketplace.  Since 1997 Kevin has worked at several resellers in the Atlanta area, and has a vast array of competitive x86 server knowledge and certifications as well as an in-depth understanding of VMware and Citrix virtualization.  Kevin has worked at Dell EMC since August 2011 working as a Server Sales Engineer covering the Global Enterprise market from 2011 to 2017 and currently works as a Chief Technical Server Architect supporting the Central Region.


Disclaimer: The views presented in this blog are personal views and may or may not reflect any of the contributors’ employer’s positions. Furthermore, the content is not reviewed, approved or published by any employer. No compensation has been provided for any part of this blog.

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