IBM Upgrades BladeCenter S For Capacity, Silence

IBM is ready to cross swords with HP over blades.

The company is taking on HP’s just-released c3000 server, a.k.a. “Shorty,” by offering an upgrade to its BladeCenter system to make it more office-friendly.

The BladeCenter S, unveiled in July, was aimed at the small and mid-sized business (SMB) market at launch, but the Office Ready Kit announced Thursday is geared to make it that much friendlier to an office environment.

“Blades in SMB are the next wave,” said Stuart McRae, marketing manager for BladeCenter at IBM. “If you think about blades up until now, you needed external storage, which meant it fit into the traditional datacenter mode. For a retail outlet or branch bank, if we tried to take blade in there, the added infrastructure cost for storage was more than they had budget for.”

The Kit for BladeCenter S, officially dubbed the IBM Business Enablement (Tower) Kit, has three components:

First, there’s the expansion of the chassis. BladeCenter S is a 7U unit but can be expanded to 11U, allowing for the addition of more blades, storage or tape backup.

Secondly, the BladeCenter S includes a set of built-in air filters that block dust. IBM thinks the filters will help reduce power because the fans won’t clog and have to work as hard. Whether that has a significant impact remains to be seen, but as Pund-IT analyst Charles King pointed out, there is one perfect (if unusual) market for these filters: pizza parlors, which apparently face real problems with flour clogging their store computers.

The third new component is a noise attenuator that muffles the sound of the fans, reducing the noise of the unit to 60 decibels. For all its pluses, critics contend that when “Shorty” is operating, it sounds like a jet engine. King said he witnessed a comparison between the two and said the c3000 was twice as loud as the BladeCenter S.

“In a small office, for small businesses, they typically don’t have a dedicated IT room,” he said. “So if you have something with much latent noise in the background, it can become an irritant to workers. I think the BladeCenter S’s quietude would be a blessing in an environment like that.”

BladeCenter S also includes “1-2-3 Storage,” a wizard used to configure a storage system in the BladeCenter in three steps. IBM said that by using the wizard, clients can reduce storage set-up time from 30 minutes to two minutes.

BladeCenter S will be available in December 2007 at a starting price of $3,298. The Office Ready Kit can be ordered as part of the server from IBM.

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