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A New Vision For HP Blades

Hewlett-Packard Wednesday gave a glimpse of its future in the arena of blade servers.

While the overall picture at the post-merger Palo Alto, Calif.-based computer and printer maker has been outlined, specific product lines are still being tweaked.

The company took the wraps off its combined blade server family, which HP is touting as the industry's broadest portfolio of blade servers and technologies optimized to address customers' needs across enterprise data center, service provider and telco environments.

The combined offering encompasses the HP Server BH and the HP ProLiant BL server blade product lines. Both are available today.

During his keynote HP Business Critical Systems CTO Lin Nease outlined a vision of how the nascent blade server segment will become a high-volume market.

"The expanded HP blade server portfolio and our technical innovation and leadership in blade technology and management software uniquely position HP to lead this emerging segment to a volume market that addresses a variety of customer needs," said Nease. "Blade servers are the ideal solution for a number of IT environments, providing customers a competitive advantage by enabling them to save time, space and resources and to manage their server environments more efficiently."

The "blade" designation comes from its relatively thin size and architecture (8-inches-by-10-inches with a 22.75-inch-tall cabinet). The average thin server is about the thickness of a pizza box.

According to the latest server market forecast from industry analyst firm IDC, the blade server market is expected to grow from $50 million in 2002 to $3.7 billion by 2006.

The HP blade server family, comprising HP Server BH and HP ProLiant BL server blade product lines, will share several common, standard core technologies, including: Ethernet, iSCSI and Fibre Channel HP OpenView, embedded lights out management, blade visualization and dynamic provisioning technologies IA-32, Intel Itanium Processor Family and PA-RISC architectures.

The HP ProLiant BL blade product line has been designed for corporate data center and service provider environments for multi-tiered scale-out applications, clustering and databases. The BL line is optimized for density and deployment using enterprise standards in the areas of network and storage fabrics (such as IP and Fibre Channel) as well as management (such as SNMP and IPMI).

The server's platform architecture takes advantage of existing telco and network equipment industry standards such as CompactPCI (cPCI) and NEBS.

The newly combined HP blade family also will offer the broadest operating system and application support. Current and future OS support will include Windows 2000, .NET, several versions of Linux and HP-UX.

In addition, HP said its Blade Server Alliance Program will encompass both blade server product lines.

In the future, HP said its next generation of blades, including dual- and quad-processor server blades will be using popular CPUs such as Pentium III, Pentium 4, Xeon, PA-RISC and the Itanium processor family. Other blades providing access to SCSI and Fibre Channel storage, as well as high-speed networking, are also expected to be offered.