The story behind this product - reducing power translates to big savings


Our company created this product to solve our own problems with our own server room. In our parent company, IntelliWeather Inc., we operate about 50 servers/renderers to do real-time meteorological graphics and forecasts for TV and radio stations worldwide.

 A few live near real-time examples from one of our television station customers (KSNW-TV in Wichita, KS) are shown below.


           Click here for large Wichita radar

Being a small company in California, recent escalations in electrical power costs put a burden on the company, and a variety of solutions were examined, including off-the shelf commercial blade systems. 



3D NationalRadar


Due to the need for many specialized machine configurations, many off the shelf systems were often overkill and highly expensive for what we needed to do. We also found that while many offered attractive power savings, those savings were often offset by the upfront costs of acquisition, multiplied by the fact that these systems were proprietary, and upgrades were expensive.

Given those needs and what was learned about existing commercial blade systems, the decision was made to design our own blade system based on the company experience in providing custom engineered broadcast display systems for live television news, one of the most demanding zero fault tolerance environments in existence. The result worked so well, was so flexible, and saved us so much money that we decided to turn it into a product! The mature product you see here is the result of almost two years of design, testing, redesign, and deployment. It is so unique, we have a U.S. patent pending on it.


In the photo above, we replaced all the 2U computers on the left, with one Build-a-Blade system on the right, saving space, and power and cooling requirements in our server room. Power consumption went from 1080 watts to 198 watts, a savings of 882 watts, we saved 12 rack units, and had 882 watts less waste heat in the room making our a/c system draw less power also. Many blades are running either Intel D525 or D2700 Dual Core Intel Atom processors, and are faster, more efficient, less costly, and smaller than the outdated Pentium 4 2U systems it replaced. For some blades requiring higher processing power, we've utilized Core i3 and i5 processors as well as some older Core2Duo processors all operating on off the shelf Mini-ITX motherboards. Some Mini-ITX systems are running Via C7 processors, doing nothing more than monitoring incoming low speed satellite feeds and sorting data.

The diversity of computing requirements was one of the reasons we felt existing blade server systems wouldn't work for us. Why throw horsepower and dollars at computing jobs that don't need it? Why pay for all that waste heat?

To see the motherboard/processor combinations that are supported, see this page.

At right  is a photo of two of our BB-ITX96 systems in the rack.

The two Build-a-Blade BB-ITX96 systems (in use) replaced eighteen 1U Intel P4 weather rendering systems (2 remaining 1U's shown just above it) resulting in dramatic power and space savings. We have four BB-ITX 96 systems currently running in our facility and we'll be adding more.

The Build-a-blade concept has worked out so well for us, we decided to offer it to the marketplace. It has been tested in one of the most demanding environments around - live broadcast TV where downtime simply isn't an option.

So we aren't just the designer, we are a customer too!