New IBM Blade Servers Aim to Check Rivals

NEW YORK — Addressing the industry’s need to process bigger applications in a smaller footprint, IBM today unveiled new blade servers and a chassis that routes data as much as 10 times faster than previous systems.

Blade servers are thin, self-contained computing machines that can be pulled in and out of a chassis as needed in a data center. IBM is the blade market leader, with more than 40 percent.

But with the new offerings, Bill Zeitler, senior vice president and group executive at IBM, said Big Blue expects to grab even more of what IDC expects to be a $10 billion pie by 2010, from rivals HP and Dell.

To wit, the IBM BladeCenter H (the “H” stands for high performance) shuttles data at speeds of more than 40 gigabits (Gb) to every blade server. It also comes with a new Advanced Management Module to automate maintenance tasks that previously required manual attention.

The speed boost comes in time to meet customers’ demands for consolidating the workloads from several machines into one to reduce data-center clutter and whittle down infrastructure and power-consumption costs.

BladeCenter H and the Advanced Management Module will be available in March, beginning at $3,849.

As fast as BladeCenter H might be, it’s of little use without its guts.

Traditional blades, typically ranging from one to four processors, have been limited in the types of applications they could power. IBM said that is changing.

The new IBM blades can run analytics software and data-warehousing applications for finance, chemical and telecommunications markets that previously only traditional servers could support.

Doug Balog, vice president of BladeCenter at IBM, unveiled the new IBM Cell blade, a box fitted with nine dual-cores to help power large workloads. With two processors on each core, the Cell blade can devote a formidable 18 processors to computing tasks.

Balog said the Cell blade was designed to speed up applications loaded with advanced graphics, including those for broadband media, digital imaging and aerospace simulations.

In a demonstration at the event, IBM showed how this blade can use the Cell Broadband Engine processor to speed up 3D and compression images to process applications in real time.

The IBM Cell blade will be available in the third quarter of 2006, with special bids commencing now.

The Armonk, N.Y., company has also created the BladeCenter JS21, which is powered by IBM’s dual-core Power chip and comes with integrated virtualization capabilities.

The JS21 blade is designed for companies who need to support grid computing, retail, manufacturing and petroleum research. The BladeCenter JS21 blade will also be available in March, starting at $2,499.

To provide even more power-saving benefits, IBM has created the Intel Xeon-based BladeCenter HS20, a dual-core blade geared toward conserving power and cutting energy costs.

The Intel Xeon-based BladeCenter HS20 will be available in April with a base price of $1,749.

IBM rounded out the launch offerings with the Cisco InfiniBand Switch Module. It is an InfiniBand switch from Cisco and IBM designed for the BladeCenter H that is four times faster than previous interconnect devices. The router will be available later this year.

To assure customers that their previous and future investments will be secure, Balog stressed that IBM’s new blades, including the new Cell, JS21 and HS20, are compatible with existing BladeCenter systems.

On the flip side, existing blade servers will also run on the new BladeCenter H.

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