RealTime IT News

Extending Blades' Reach

Looking to extend its sizable lead in the server blade market, IBM today unveiled new products and services designed to appeal to small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs).

The Armonk, N.Y., company trotted out the Server Connectivity Module for IBM BladeCenter, an entry-level networking switch priced at $999.

IBM said it also plans to boost the value of BladeCenter by offering a standard iSCSI   connection to the IBM System i business computing platform, as well as Windows server management.

"System i has a huge installed based and this lets those customers integrate network and system management with BladeCenter," Matt Wineberg, IBM's worldwide product manager for BladeCenter, told internetnews.com.

"It's a big plus for our customers to be able to use both simultaneously and not have to rip up the infrastructure."

While blades offer the advantage of consolidating computer resources more efficiently than traditional servers, IBM has found reluctance among many potential SMB customers to make the switch.

"The task of migrating [to blades] is daunting to many of them because they have limited IT resources," said Wineberg.

Enter IBM's new "Implementation Services Servicepac for BladeCenter" priced at $6,999.

For that price, IBM will send a team of specialists on a three-day mission to get the blade system up and running, and train the customer to maintain it.

IBM also is expanding its financing options, with the Blade chassis now available for a 60-month term.

"We expect the chassis to last over five years so this is designed to match the technology as we see it," said Wineberg.

The blades can be leased for up to 36 months and renewed or refreshed depending on customer preference.

The blade market is one of the hottest areas of computing. The latest IDC estimates for blade servers revealed that shipments increased 49.3 percent year over year and factory revenue gained 56.9 percent.

However, blade servers represent a small fraction of the overall market. For example, IDC said blades had a 4.6 percent share of quarterly revenue in the fourth quarter of last year at $667 million.

IBM has maintained the number one ranking in sales for several years closely followed by HP. In the fourth quarter, IDC said IBM had a 42.7 percent share in blade revenue, HP 35.1 and Dell 11.2 percent.

IDC's senior research analyst Kelly Quinn said IT managers are increasingly adopting blades as a standard building block in their "virtual IT infrastructures."

In related news, Big Blue also announced a storage system this week that's also designed for SMB customers.