IBM Cuts Blade Servers for SMBs

Tuesday Oct 26th 2004 by Amy Newman
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IBM Friday sharpened it blade offerings to target small and midsize businesses with the announcement of new hardware and software bundles.

Juhi Jotwani, director of IBM eServer Blade Center Alliances, said that 30 percent of IBM blade sales come from the SMB space. She said sometimes SMBs use blades for a specific function; and sometimes they run an entire data center off of a blades chassis.

Big Blue unveiled a modified version of the BladeCenter Chassis that is scheduled to begin shipping Nov. 24. The 7U (U is a unit of measure that equals 1.75 inches. It refers to the height of computer enclosures or rack cabinets — in this case, 12.25 inches), 14 blade BladeCenter Express Chassis is a stripped-down version of the original BladeCenter Chassis. Jotwani said it lacks a floppy drive (though it does contain a DVD drive) as well as the redundant management module and some I/O capabilities (e.g., no SAN support).

The BladeCenter Express Chassis is currently priced starting at $1,000. This is a 90-day promotion, and IBM did not disclose what the permanent pricing would be. BladeCenter Express uses the same blades as the standard BladeCenter Chassis, which sells for $2,500.

IBM also announced Business-in-a-Box bundles for Windows and Linux. Jotwani said these "soft bundles" are available and shipping now. They run on BladeCenter blades regardless of chassis and are designed to be nearly plug-and-play in their ease of use.

The Business in a Box with Linux Solutions is a variety of Linux and open source applications designed to handle basic business server needs, including file, print, e-mail, Web, database, storage and connectivity. Should additional functionality be required, such as for mySAP Small Business Suite, customers can add an IBM DB2-based infrastructure to the basic bundle.

Business in a Box with Microsoft Solutions uses IBM Director at its core. It is designed to help midsize enterprises better manage their infrastructure with the integration of servers, storage and networking. It supports applications such as e-mail and file/print sharing.

Jotwani said that both bundles come with a chassis and six blades, as well as a reference architecture. The solution's main value, however, lies in the software combinations. As the bundle itself may vary, so does the pricing.

Blades are currently the fastest growing server market segment. A recent report from analyst firm IDC predicts they will grow 60 percent compounded annually from 2003 through 2007, and they will account for 25 percent of servers by 2007. Other analyst firms beg to differ, however. IDC data pegs IBM as the current leader in the blade server vendor with 43.8 percent of revenue market share.

While IBM is certainly not alone in courting the SMB market, it is the only major vendor targeting it with blades at this time.

Adapted from serverwatch.com.

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