Q: What are the different management requirements of blade servers as opposed to standard servers?In general, managing blades isn't much different than managing standard servers. However, the very things that make them attractive - such as their stackability and hot swapability - do pose some new management challenges.This is because, in a typical installation, there are just so many of them. Managing hundreds of headless blades in a rack, multiplied by numerous racks, is just not possible without scalable automation of processes and tasks within a virtual rack environment.Touchless bare-metal deployment and remote access are critical components of blade server management.Because of the unique nature of blade servers, IT administrators should also look for real-time inventory and configuration discovery, and the ability to image blades quickly in order to take advantage of hot swappability and reallocation of server resources on the fly. Drag and drop provisioning can mean the reprovisioning of eight, 50 or 100 blade servers in about 30 minutes - compared to three to four hours for manual provisioning of a single server (such automation is also critical if you want to meet frequently changing business needs).IT organizations still require management of the entire server blade lifecycle including availability and performance monitoring, hardware and software inventory and asset management, provisioning, deployment, imaging, patch management. Ideally the management software for these different functions will be policy based and seamlessly integrated for increased automation, lower administrative costs and higher maintenance efficiencies. Heterogeneous functionality for both Windows and Linux is critical to address current market conditions.Finally, remote management needs to be part of any blade operation, because their cost effectiveness and small size make them such a good option for network edge applications.Poul Nielsen is vice president, marketing and product strategy for Altiris. He has more than 20 years of experience in software development and systems management including executive management positions with Computer Associates and Computing Edge (since acquired by Altiris) as the president and COO. Under Poul's direction, web-based PC management technology from Computing Edge has been integrated as the platform for Altiris solutions available today and provides value to IT managers through extending and enhancing Microsoft SMS environments. Poul is responsible for Altiris product marketing, corporate marketing and customer services.