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David Sims

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[April 1, 2005]

Hewlett-Packard Hits Blade Servers


A blade server as this reporter learned off Google a little while ago himself is a computer system on a motherboard, which includes processor(s), memory, a network connection and sometimes storage.

The blade idea is to address the needs of large scale computing centers to reduce space requirements for application servers and lower costs. A typical application could be serving web pages. So along with a Storage Blade they can be rack mounted in multiple racks within a cabinet together with common cabling, redundant power supplies and cooling fans.

Dan Muse writes in Small Business Computing blade servers arent just for large enterprises looking to consolidate hundreds of servers: In fact, computer heavyweights are targeting small and mid-sized businesses big-time with these ultra thin servers that slide into a single, compact chassis.

According to Muse Hewlett-Packard has announced an expansion of its Smart Office initiative for SMBs designed to provide small businesses with education, services, marketing tools and guidance related to blade server technology.

The battle between Hewlett-Packard and IBM to grab blade server market share in small and midsize businesses is expected to escalate with the launching of HP's SMB blade initiative to kick off in May 2005.

Called Blades for Business, the SMB blade battle plan includes a simplified and lower-cost HP BladeSystem enclosure as well as packaged HP services designed to speed blade implementation in new accounts.

What we have done is try to reduce the complexity of blades and bring the pricing to the point where blades are a good fit for a customer who is adding or replacing [at least] five servers a year, Vince Gayman, director of worldwide SMB programs at HP.

HP will also introduce a new BladeSystem enclosure with a single rather than a dual 220-power supply. Pricing hasn't been finalized, Gayman said, but he estimated that the simplified power would reduce entry-level chassis costs by several hundred dollars.

In addition, HP Services is offering partner-sold/HP-delivered planning, implementation and ongoing service and support packages targeted at first-time blade customers. The Blades for Business initiative, which includes training, marketing and support from HP, is primarily a partner-led strategy rather than one from HP Direct. It's not 100 percent partner-led, but 90-plus percent partner-led, Gayman said. The [blade] customer needs someone on-site to help get started and carry on the relationship with ongoing service and support.

But are small businesses really ready to buy into blades? John Enck, vice president of server strategies at Gartner, tells Muse that blade products need to change to address the SMB market. He added that the small business market will require a smaller chassis that will house fewer blades and cost less: But assuming the products change, blades offer an SMB a data center in a box approach to computing. They can easily manage all of the server functions through a common console plus they let you expand your environment by adding blades as needed.

HP appears to be making the adjustments Enck suggests. HP BladeSystem servers are powered by either one, two or four Intel Xeon or AMD Opteron processors for either Windows or Linux deployments. As part of the Blades for Business program, which will launch on May 2, HP will offer a new 1U power supply for single HP BladeSystem enclosures designed especially for smaller implementations.

HP said that ballpark figure for a small business setup, which would include the chassis, power supply, basic networking and five servers is around $12,000. A blade server configuration such as that can be right for businesses with as few as 50 employees, Vince Gayman, director of WorldWide SMB Product Programs at HP, said. However, he added, companies in the 100-200 employee range are more likely starting points for blades.

More than a new product, HPs announcement represents an increased market focus. HP is really targeting at the program level, Gayman said. While, to date, blade servers have typically been targeted at larger enterprises and data centers, this program aggressively targets the SMB market, he said. It builds awareness and a comfort level with blades, he said.

David Sims is contributing editor and CRM Alert columnist for TMCnet.

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