Do you know the difference between a blade server and a rack server? If not, don’t worry. You’re not alone!

Many people are unsure of the differences between these two types of servers because of the many servers on the market. To better understand blade servers and rack servers, let’s take a closer look at each type of server and its key features.

A blade server, which is a high-density server, is a tiny computer that manages and distributes data across several computers and networks. It serves as a link between machines, programs, applications, and systems.

A rack server, on the other hand, is a type of server that is typically mounted on a rack. Rack servers are usually less expensive than blade servers and are more commonly used in small and medium businesses. They are also called rack mount computers and rack-mounted servers.

Here, we’ll break down the pros and cons of blade servers and rack servers so that you can make an informed decision about which server is right for your business.

Let’s get started!

Blade Server vs. Rack Server. A Side-by-Side Comparison

Blade ServerRack Server
What Is It?A cable connection with several servers slid into a single chassisDedicated servers mounted on a rack
Optical DriveDoes not support an optical driveOptical drive is optional at the front
Ideal Business ModelMedium-to-large organizationsSmall organizations
SizeSmall and thinWide
Use of Cables Fewer cables are used as it does not require the use of individual cables for each serverMultiple cables are used as each server needs an individual cable
Ease of RepairEasyEasy
DesignModularStandalone
Mount UsesChassisRack

Rack Server vs. Blade Server: 5 Must-Know Facts

  • Blade servers are managed by the Cisco UCS manager through the UCS Fabric, while rack servers can be managed both independently or by the Cisco UCS manager.
  • Blade servers feature hot-swapping capabilities that allow components to be added or removed without switching off the servers. Rack servers do not need hot-swapping as all their components are inbuilt.
  • Blade servers are mounted on a chassis that can support multiple servers while rack servers are mounted on a rack.
  • The design features of the blade servers and rack servers are suitable for medium-to-large organizations and small organizations, respectively.
  • The blade servers do not support an optical drive while, for the rack servers, the optical drive at the front panel is optional for both CD and DVD media.

Blade Servers: A Complete History

Christopher Hipp and David Kirkeby, of RLX Technologies at the time, applied for the blade server patent in 2000. The first commercially available blade server was released in 2001. The purpose of them was to meet the need in the industry for more efficient and compact data storage.

Most blade servers suit the front and middle tiers of data centers. Front-tier internet applications largely depend on the number of materials passing through the system rather than the overall processing power. As such, a bladed server will only need one or two processors to be installed and one or two internal disk components. Mid-tier applications require more power (processors), memory, and input/output capacity. These large blades will be suitable for virtualization hosting, thanks to the database and transaction processing applications support they provide.

Large blade servers rely on additional internal storage and data stored on a storage area network (SAN). Originally, data center fabrics using blade servers relied on the ability to boot from SAN, thus rendering the blades useless and reducing the reliance on internal storage.

What are the Features of Blade Servers?

Design

Blade servers have a thin design that allows several servers to be accommodated in a smaller space. They have several components, including CPU, memory, built-in storage drives, and network controllers.

Their ability to host several servers in smaller areas and their high processing power make them ideal for use in large data centers. Multiple servers are often slid on a large chassis mounted on a server rack. This not only enables the use of fewer components but also enables more efficient operation of the machine. As such, they provide the highest processing power per Rack Unit (RU), despite the small space they occupy.

Power

The blade servers feature a chassis with several servers slid on it. This special design allows the system to distribute power to all servers in a single enclosure, thereby consuming less power. By keeping all servers in a single chassis, fewer components will be needed to run each server.  

Pros

  • Fits in small spaces
  • Consumes less power
  • Fewer cables are used

Cons

  • Higher cooling costs

Rack Servers: Developed Earlier than Blade Servers

Unlike blade servers, rack servers were developed earlier on, after the rapid increase in server technology development and use. The Compaq’s ProLiant Series’ first-ever rack server was developed in 1993. Due to mounting several servers on one rack, organizations could save on space. However, keeping the servers in enclosed areas led to heat buildup, which saw the development of cooling systems to regulate temperatures.

At around the same time, organizations had to move these servers to single rooms after they acquired additional technology. These rooms were commonly referred to as “server rooms” and were mostly away from normal office spaces. Eventually, these organizations saw the need to design special rooms for servers to address these systems’ temperature and security threats. This move eventually led to the development of the modern-day data center.

Server blade servers rack servers
Blade servers are generally recommended for medium to large-sized companies, while rack servers are considered best for smaller companies.

What are the Features of Rack Servers?

Design

Rack servers’ special and general-purpose design allows them to be mounted on a server rack and enables them to support several requirements after being configured. They are built to work well in large data centers and small computer cabinet enclosures. They differ from blade servers in that they occupy larger spaces. While large servers require additional components like CPUs and memory, you can utilize a smaller space by mounting each server on top of the other. However, using multiple servers will increase up-front costs associated with the machine.

Power

The rack server is known to produce more power compared to blade servers. This is mainly because rack servers come with all the components it needs to operate effectively, as they are been built-in. The high power makes it suitable for high-end applications. 

Pros

  • Produces high power
  • Works well in small, medium, and large applications
  • Hot-swappable

Cons

  • Occupies a lot of space
  • Requires lots of cables

Blade Server vs. Rack Server: What’s the Difference?

There are significant differences between blade servers and rack servers. Here are some of them. 

Humidity Control and Cooling

Servers produce a lot of heat when operational. While the number of initial installations in blade servers influences their air temperature, rack servers influence the number of servers inside.

Blade and rack servers have built-in humidity control features that optimize airflow and remove warm air, enabling the servers’ effective operation. Regarding cooling costs in blade servers and rack servers, it’s higher with blade servers due to their higher concentration.

Configuration of Components

Blade servers are more suitable for data clustering due to their high-performance capabilities. Their internal configuration includes hot-swappable capabilities, allowing you to add or remove components from the server without switching off the system. This helps to reduce downtime associated with the system.

Rack servers are equipped with all components, and the cable makes the connection. However, all the components of the server operate independently. You don’t have to add other components for expansion as the server features memory, storage, and CPU that are added during its initial installation.

Uses

Blade servers have high scalability, upgradeability, and processing power, making them ideal for high-precision programs and space conservation. Also, blade servers may be accommodated inside racks in blade systems, where they are considered one thing.

Rack servers are ideal for a wide range of uses. Their ability to work well in highly computer-intensive applications and their high scalability, expandability, and upgradeability make them the preferred server in industrial, commercial, and military use.

Blade Server vs. Rack Server: Which One is Better? Which One Should You Use?

The answer to this question depends on your specific needs and requirements. If you have limited space in your data center, then a blade server is the better option. A rack server is the way to go if you’re looking for a more cost-effective server. Ultimately, it’s important to weigh all the pros and cons of each type of server before making a decision. 

The most common factor to consider when choosing between blade and rack servers is the need to increase the amount of data you store and your computing power.

From the features, pros, and cons included in this article, there are a few issues we can point out to help you decide which one to go for. We have noted that blade servers have a high processing power coupled with hot-swappable capabilities that enable them to reduce downtime. On the other hand, rack servers have high scalability and upgradeability and can manage huge storage spaces and systems with good computing performance.  

Because of the above analysis, each server will fit well in certain environments depending on your business model. For example, blade servers will be ideal for your needs if you run a medium-to-large organization that requires several servers to handle complex applications, but you have a small data area. You’ll do well with rack servers if your organization’s data center environment requires high computing power.

Final Thoughts

We hope this article has helped you understand the key differences between blade servers and rack servers. As you can see, each server has its own set of pros and cons that make it suitable for different situations. It’s important to weigh all the factors before deciding which type of server is right for your organization.

A blade server is the way to go if you need a more powerful server that can handle data-intensive applications. Rack servers are the better option if you’re looking for a more cost-effective server. Ultimately, it’s important to weigh all the pros and cons of each type of server before making a decision.

Up Next…

Blade Servers vs. Rack Servers: Which Is Better? FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) 

What do servers do?

As its name suggests, servers “serve” people or organizations to store, send, or receive data. A server can be a computer, storage device, or software program. You use it to provide you with single or multiple services.

 

 

What’s the difference between blade and rack servers?

While the two have several differences, the main difference is that rack servers have high scalability, upgradability, and the ability to support the management of data storage spaces and systems with good computing performance.

Which is cheaper to buy and maintain: blade servers or rack servers?

Blade servers are cheaper to buy and maintain. This is mainly due to their ease of cooling and operation, with the total heat produced being less than that of rack servers. Less cabling also reduces their maintenance costs.

 

 

Do blade and rack servers use Cisco servers?

The Cisco UCS Manager manages blade servers through their interconnection with UCS Fabric. Rack servers integrate Cisco Integrated Management Controller (CIMC) and can therefore be managed by the Cisco UCS manager or independently.

Do blade servers need a blade enclosure?

Yes, blade servers need and can fit well inside a blade enclosure. This enables it to accommodate multiple blade servers and provide more efficient services like power, networking, and cooling.

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