Virtual Offis cuts to blades

Virtual Offis cuts to blades

Virtual Offis is set to become the first managed service provider to implement IBM's blade technology.

The company is committed to the purchase of a seven-rack blade centre, which houses up to 14 servers, by the end of the year. CEO Craig Allen said he expects the technology to halve both the space and power requirements of Virtual Offis.

"At the same time, it doubles our processing power," he said.

As an MSP, Virtual Offis fits right into the target market for blade servers. In fact, Allen has been banking on such a technology making its way into the market.

"In 2000, we didn't go head over heels building data centres like a lot of companies," he said. That strategy has stood the company in good stead, but it also means its rack space is at a premium.

"We've been betting on the technology getting smaller -- and it has. Since we started in 1997, there has been a six-fold reduction in size and computing power."

Allen hopes to implement the servers over the Christmas break, which is generally a slow time for most businesses. The technology will also have to run the gamut of testing before it gets the go-ahead.

IBM blade technology uses Intel Xeon processors. While questions have been raised over the amount of heat produced by the processors, Allen is confident IBM has developed a cooling system that negates any potential problems.

"IBM has done a lot of work with air flow and cooling," he said. "The air flow spreads over the processors and a lot of work has gone into positioning the components. You only need one fan, and it changes its speed depending on the requirements."

Virtual Offis will use the blade technology in conjunction with Tivoli IT Director, which brings the amount of time it takes to build a server for a customer down from 10 hours to just three or four.

"Another thing that makes life a lot easier for us is the cabling. Racks always look nice from the front, but with the world's most sophisticated labelling system, finding where you plugged a cable a year later can be a nightmare. Blades have no power cables, no network cables, and no need for a keyboard, monitor or mouse. We'll have 14 computers in there with seven cables. That's really nice.

"We've had our hand up for this for an awfully long time. IBM has come out with competitive pricing from a hardware point of view, and we make the money on services."

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