OrthoBanc President Bill Holt
Mar 16 2009

Controlled Growth

Blade servers let businesses micromanage their IT deployments — and, in this case, micromanagement's a good thing.

No room; no processing muscle; no ability to expand services.

That’s pretty much the situation OrthoBanc faced 16 months ago. The Chattanooga, Tenn., company grew its business by specializing in e-payment services for orthodontists and dentists nationwide, and it wanted to branch out, says OrthoBanc President Bill Holt. But its data center was maxed out.

OrthoBanc faced a challenge common to growing businesses: the need to upgrade overworked servers housed in a cramped data center. Add to that the desire to reduce management overhead, and you have OrthoBanc’s case for replacing its aged rack-mount servers with an HP Blade System c7000.

The blade deployment, completed last fall, let OrthoBanc “consolidate most of our production servers, including our web servers, Exchange mail server, database servers and virtual servers in the blade box,” says Patrick Wu, director of information services.

The blades also produced a side benefit: reduced power consumption. “We are definitely using less power — as we expected and as was claimed — thus saving us a lot on utility costs,” Wu points out.

More than a quarter of medium-size businesses with local area networks now deploy blades, according to IDC research. Small firms will increasingly follow suit, especially as manufacturers continue to make products that are relevant for their distinct business needs, says Justin Jaffe, a senior analyst with IDC’s SMB & Home Office Research group. “As with any technology, attributes that are going to resonate best with SMB customers are simplicity, flexibility and — particularly important given today’s economic climate — providing an immediate solution for a current business problem.”

Driving Down Costs

Patrick Wu, OrthoBanc’s Director of Information Services

“Selecting the blade system reduced our cabling dramatically and centralized our server management,” says Wu. The c7000 provides a central management console for the mix of BL460c and BL480c blades in the system, simplifying maintenance and management, which has reduced the amount of time he spends on maintenance and upgrades.

Sentry Data Systems had also outpaced the four racks of servers at its Deerfield Beach, Fla., facility. As a health-care business intelligence and pharmacy management solutions provider, Sentry Data needed a lot more processing horsepower and real-time access to more than 20 terabytes of data sets. Last fall, Sentry migrated its data from old rack-mount servers onto an IBM Blade Center H chassis hosting 14 HS21 blade servers running Red Hat Linux, and integrated the BladeCenter with its IBM System Storage DS4700 Express disk system.

Of readers with blades, 21% say processing power is the most important evaluation criteria.
Source: Survey of 299 BizTech readers

For Sentry, finding ways to reduce costs while expanding service is a recipe for success. “We spend less time maintaining high-failure components such as power supplies, and more time serving our customers and developing our applications,” says Sentry’s CIO John Peebles. The new environment also costs less to maintain and meshes with the company’s burgeoning use of virtualization, he says.

“Sentry makes heavy use of virtualization, and the relatively homogenous environment that blades provide means a time savings when we’re planning and provisioning virtual services,” Peebles says. “Our blades use anywhere from 16 gigabytes to 32GB of RAM and have eight cores each, which makes them ideal for virtualization.”

Quantrell Colbert