One of my tasks as Chief Technology Architect at Dell is to talk with customers about future technologies. When I reflect on my past vision of where the blade server is heading (“The Blade Server of the Future“) I’m surprised at how close we are to that vision becoming a reality. Based upon where we are heading, the blade server format could be the perfect model for the future datacenter, so let me explain why.
If you really examine servers in the datacenter, you’ll find we have a definitive dependency with the CPU vendors. They dictate how many CPUs we can have, how much memory we can support and in many cases, how many drives and I/O slots we can use. In fact, 9 out of 10 customers say the last VMware ESXi server purchased was because they ran out of memory; the CPU utilization was minimal. For the datacenter to evolve, we’ve got to break the dependencies we have with the CPU vendor. We’re going to see this happen in the near future when Gen-Z becomes available. Don’t try and Google “Gen-Z” ’cause you’ll end up finding “millennial”, “gen-y”, etc. (I’ll give you some links at the end of this post.) The Gen-Z I’m talking about is a memory-centric, high-speed fabric that will allow us to interconnect components. In fact, when the Gen-Z fabric becomes a reality, we may no longer be buying servers like we do today, but instead, we’ll be buying individual components and assembling them together through the Gen-Z fabric. The server of the future could look like this:
In the future, we could be buying components in the form of “sleds”; like Storage Class Memory (SCM), traditional memory (DRAM) and even individual CPUs. We’ll no longer need to buy a complete server because we run out of memory for ESXi, but instead, we’d simply add a sled of memory into the server mix. The server as we know it will never be the same.
Now – why do I think that blade servers will be the future of this technology? Quite simply, the sled design of most blade infrastructures provide a nice platform for expansion via the component sled concept I described above. In fact, in the future, our “blade server” chassis may end up serving as “component” chassis. Dell Technologies demonstrated a prototype of Gen-Z in a blade server world which you can read about at ServeTheHome’s blog post here. Bottom line is, don’t think blade servers are dead. In fact, the opposite is true. Over the next few years, the modular platform will be the ideal design to service future architectures.
Kevin 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 as a Server Sales Engineer covering the Global Enterprise market from 2011 to 2017 and now works as a Chief Technical Server Architect supporting the Central Enterprise Region at Dell EMC.
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