Interesting Mods and Add-Ons for Office Blade Servers
June 2, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Way back in the day, I think maybe when I was a baby–I mean that literally–the idea of office computers had as much to do with office as it did with computer. Despite the fact that they included a whole lot of electromechanical whooziwhatits and thingamabobs, vendors like IBM tried to create computers and workstations (that used to be where you sat to use the computer, not at a machine) that blended in with the colorful and trendy offices of the time.
With the advent of rack-based server computing, small and medium businesses could not deploy lots of gear in an office environment because of the power draw, not to mention the noise and the heat. (As a person who has sat next to a Linux and Windows cluster for five years in a small, hot New York City apartment, I can tell you that the noise is as bad as the heat.) But the advent of the “Shorty” BladeSystem c3000 chassis from Hewlett-Packard and the BladeCenter S chassis from IBM, which both run on normal wall power (not 220/240 volt circuits) and which are designed to be small enough to put some blades, storage, and switches in a real office environment, it has finally become practical to choose a few blades instead of a bunch of tower servers stuffed under the desks or in a closet.
Even with the soundproofing and dust protection that HP and IBM are putting forward with their respective c3000 and S chasses, they still do not fit in an office environment in the way that a desk or a chair does. That’s why Kell Systems, a maker of stylish server cabinets, has created a product specifically created to house HP, IBM, and Dell blade servers and make them not only fit in better with your office environment, but to make it so you can’t hear the blasted things as you are working and having to worry about them melting. The BladeVault Model PBSE24 blade server cabinet has two power distribution units with seven 120-volt outlets each and has a maximum thermal load of 4.3 kilowatts. The picture shown here is for a BladeVault with a light oak laminate finish, but the company’s products come in nine standard finishes (light gray, dark gray, black, and white for basic solids or faux wood in ash, natural oak, light oak, natural beech, or steamed beech) and eight premium wood finishes (American walnut, American cherry, flat grain oak, Canadian maple, ash, American white oak, white sycamore, and ebony).
If you have larger server and storage setups, the company sells cabinets that range in size from 12U to 38U form factors. Interestingly, and importantly if you like to hear, the Kell cabinets reduce the server noise down to about 18.5 decibels, which according to the company means it removes 98.5 percent of the server noise. (An air-conditioner in your window is between 45 and 50 decibels, and two rack servers generate around 62 decibels; for every two servers you add, add around 3 decibels of noise. Remember that decibels are on a logarithmic scale, so the jump from 68 decibels for eight servers with average loads down to 18.5 decibels for the same machines in the BladeVault is a huge reduction in noise. The BladeVault costs $5,290, and as far as my ears and eyes are concerned, is worth every penny.
Kell Systems is a privately held British company that was founded in 2003; it is headquartered in Marlow, Buckinghamshire, and has manufacturing and distribution facilities in Frome, Somerset. The company also has showrooms and distribution centers in the United States (in Chantilly, Virginia) as well as in Germany and Spain.
If you are looking to trick out your BladeCenter S chassis, the Blade.org community has put together a nice catalog of add-ons for the BladeCenter blade servers from IBM and Intel that come from Blade.org members as well as from companies that are not members of the organization. You can check out that catalog listing at this link. I tried in vain to find a similar listing of third-party products for the HP and Dell blades.