Custom-made for Their SMB Customers
To Ann Livermore, one of the mistakes major OEMs make when courting smaller businesses is offering enterprise-class products that have been scaled down to serve companies with fewer than 1,000 employees. The result is companies with limited technology dollars and small IT staffs having to deal with overwhelmingly complex hardware and software. Hewlett-Packard is looking to address those problems with the newest enclosure in its line of c-Class blade products, the BladeSystem c3000, nicknamed Shorty for its 10.5-inch height. More than a clever nickname, the new system offers several features that HP is hoping will attract midmarket buyers who may have considered blades a tool of large enterprises with massive data centers.HPs new blade is just the latest attempt by a large vendor to gain an edge in a market that Livermore estimates represents some 500,000 companies worldwide with between 100 and 1,000 employees each. In June, IBM announced a new BladeCenter S, a six-blade chassis system, as well as on-board storage and switch options, aimed at small businesses. Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, on Sept. 10 released the PowerVault MD3000i SAN (storage area network) array for the small and midsize business market. The product offers 18TB of capacity for about $13,000. Like Livermore, CEO Michael Dell said the IT industry has underserved the needs of SMB customers, giving them too little or too much. "Growing businesses are quickly reaching a breaking point in their ability to store and manage all this data being created," Dell told a group of analysts and reporters at the launch event in San Francisco. Click here to read more about HPs new blades for the midmarket. "Historically, the industry has presented SMBs with two options for storage: Either buy a rudimentary storage solution like a DVD or tape that lacks capacity and basic software or buy a de-featured product originally designed for large businesses," Dell said. "So it either doesnt do enough, or it costs too much. We will change that." Michael Speyer, an analyst at Forrester Research, said technology such as HPs c3000 blade will help strengthen the companys position as it looks to grow in the midmarket. "The midmarket is looking for products that can deliver the [computing] complexity of the enterprise with the management complexity taken away," Speyer said, adding that storage is one area that both enterprise and midmarket companies continue to look to invest in. "A lot of it depends on how big the storage needs are going to get, and this solution does give smaller businesses a nicely scalable data center in the box and a small-form-factor environment," Speyer said. "HP is also offering critical apps such as CRM [customer relationship management] without having to go out and investing in a miniserver farm." Speyer said Dell, HP and IBM are key competitors in the space, though Livermore said her company holds an advantage over its rivals. IBMs BladeCenter product falls into the same problem as other serversit takes existing enterprise technology and tries to shoehorn it into a midmarket product, she said. As for Dell, Livermore said that another midmarket key is a strong channel program, something that Dell is just starting to grow. At the c3000 launch, HP officials said the company has about 5,000 channel partners throughout North America ready to sell the new blade architecture to customers. "Suddenly, what we see is a lot of midsize companies that need simple-to-manage but big, strong computing capabilities, and so we see a need for small IT sites that have big computing and storage needs," Livermore said. "They have a need for a lot of computing power but have a very small IT staff, and they have limited capabilities around power and computing and limited expertise around particular technologies. What we are trying to do is hit that segment with this blade offering," she said. HPs blade enclosure can hold up to eight blades and can plug into a standard 110- or 220-volt wall socket. Less cabling means it can fit into a closet or other small spaces for companies where space is at a premium. Page 2: Custom-made for Their SMB Customers
"One of the things we have seen is that [the midmarket] is an important and huge segment, but most of the time products get built for big companies and then they try to be scaled down for the midmarket," Livermore, executive vice president of HPs Technology Solutions Group, said in an interview with eWEEK before the new enclosure was launched Sept. 12.