Bangalore: Blades, the newest form factor in servers that consume less power and occupy less space, are gaining increased acceptance in the Indian marketplace as customers look for minimizing their energy and operational costs while expanding their IT infrastructure.
Key server vendors such as Hewlett Packard Co, IBM, Dell and Sun Microsystems are seeing increased demand for blades in India, where unit shipments doubled in 2007 to 12,146 as compared to around 6,000 in 2006, according to estimates from research agency IDC. HP dominated the India x86 blade server market with 64% of total x86 blade server shipments in 2007, followed by IBM with a 28% share.
Blade servers are making inroads into the traditional rack and tower servers that typically occupy large surface area and guzzle huge power. A blade server is a server chassis that can have multiple thin modular electronic circuit boards known as server blades, which allows more processing power in a less rack space with reduced power consumption.
Blades are clearly growing in India with double digit growth rates, though with a small base. “I expect accelerated growth for blades in future as cost savings coupled with ease of management and scalability is driving the blade adoption,” says Naveen Mishra, analyst at Gartner Inc.
Data centres are the early adopters of blades in verticals such as banking and financial services, telecom, IT and IT enabled services.
Rajesh Dhar, country head, Industry Standard Servers, HP India Sales Ltd attributes the increased take-off of blades to the maturity of the product in the marketplace and the range per se in terms of more products available in the market. Further, blades are moving away from being servers only to data centres, says Dhar.
IDC estimates server revenues in India grew by a quarter to touch $727 million in 2007 compared to a year ago. Unit shipments in 2007 grew 19% to 135,615 over a year ago and the market was dominated by HP India followed by IBM and Dell. Apart from the traditional sectors such as telecom, banking and financial services and manufacturing, 2007 also saw the emergence of retail and construction as key demand servers.
Revenues from the x86 server category grew by 24% over 2006 to touch $414 million, while unit shipments grew a little over one-fifth to 126,940 units in the same period. With a one-third market share in revenue as well as unit shipments, HP dominated the India x86 Server market.
The non-x86 server market also grew by a quarter year-on-year to touch $313 million in 2007 and the market was driven by the expansion plans of major telecom service providers and customers in the BFSI sector. With almost two fifth market share, IBM stayed ahead of other players in the India non-x86 server market in 2007.
“The blade server market continued to be the hot segment for x86 servers during 2007,” says Amit Dalal, analyst, enterprise computing product research, IDC India. “The market was abuzz with initiatives like ramping up of product portfolios and education of customers that demonstrated benefits such as reducing redundancy and reduction in cabling, power and space requirements”.
“Demand is coming from both existing and new customers for the blades” says Pallab Talukdar, director enterprise business at Dell India Pvt Ltd. Existing customers are moving from rack to blades whenever they expand their data centres.
Sun Microsystems, which re-entered the blade segment about three quarters ago, is seeing good ramp-up, says Ashish Khushu, Director Systems Practice. Sun has sold a little over 210 blade servers in the past three quarters in India.
Blades have emerged as an alternative for those customers who want to buy some four to five servers. Customers looking for compute requirements and who are driven to look at economies in factors such as power and space utilization are going for blade servers. “The blade segment is good for consolidation and virtualization” Khushu said adding that Sun’s blade supports its chipset Niagara besides Intel and AMD chipsets.
“Blades are being seriously evaluated by those customers expanding their IT infrastructure” says Ajay Mittal, country manager, volume business, Systems and Technology Group IBM India. Also it is easier to consolidate and virtualize in a blade environment.
Virtualization is the buzzword in the CIO circles these days as they are looking to utilize their IT infrastructure efficiently. Virtualization refers to the technology that allows multiple operating systems and applications to run on the same hardware thereby eliminating the need for different computers to run different servers.
Further, the customer would also gain in terms of lower power and cooling costs as blades consume about a third less as compared to distributed computing. “Power consumption is down by 30-40% in blades as compared to rack or tower servers,” says HP’s Dhar. About two fifth of the operational costs in a data centre are towards power and coooling.
The growth in blade segment is happening at the cost of towers. Opting for blades helps customers in terms of lower licensing costs as one could have fewer licenses of operating systems. “Apart from the advantage of higher compute and storage capabilities, the maintenance costs are also lower” Khushu adds.