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By Scott Ferguson  |  Posted 2007-09-12 Print this article Print

As a company, HP has been moving in this direction for some time. At its annual Technology Forum & Expo earlier this year, CEO Mark Hurd talked about the need to reduce the complexity of technology. The key to this, Hurd said, is using the technology HP has gained through acquisitions to create easier-to-manage products that use less power and require less daily maintenance. HP is not the only company looking to expand its research into these small markets.
In June, IBM announced that it would offer a new BladeCenter S system, a six-blade chassis system as well as on-board storage and switch options, specifically meant for small businesses. Dell is also expected to roll out new blade architecture by years end, which should add to the mix of options available to smaller businesses.
Still, HP appears to be in a good position to take advantage of the market. The Palo Alto, Calif., companys third-quarter revenues, released Aug. 16, were $25.4 billion, an increase of 16 percent from the same time last year. Within its Enterprise Storage and Servers, or ESS, unit, HP posted revenue of $4.5 billion, a 10-percent hike over the prior-year period. During that time, industry-standard server sales grew 16 percent, with x86 blade revenue up 81 percent. Storage revenue grew 6 percent. In her interview, Livermore said that IBMs BladeCenter product falls into the same problem as other servers—it takes existing enterprise technology and tries to shoehorn it into a midmarket product. "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 [the vendors] try to [scale them] down for the midmarket," Livermore said. As for Dell, Livermore said that another key to the midmarket is HPs channel, a subject that Dell is starting to learn about. During last weeks announcement, HP executives said that the company had about 5,000 channel partners throughout North America ready to sell the new blade architecture to customers. Even through the c3000 is geared toward the midmarket, HP is not cutting off the enterprise market. Livermore emphasized that the system is equally up to the task of fitting into the branch or remote offices of banks, manufactures and giant retail chains. Russ Stringer, a server engineer and disaster recovery expert with Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama, oversees an enterprise-class IT infrastructure but is intrigued by the possibility of using the BladeSystem c3000 in his companys remote offices for either storage backup or creating a virtual desktop infrastructure using thin-client PCs. Stringer has used HP c-Class blades in the companys main data center—the business is based in Birmingham, Ala.,—to save on power and cooling and to consolidate older, rack-mount servers. "As a company, we have made a decision to go to blades for space, power and cooling," Stringer said. As for the new blades, Stringer said: "Im looking at one and their standard power supply is 110 [volts], so I dont have to worry about pulling 220 [volts] into a remote office. It also allows us to use our stock of spare parts if something goes wrong." Stringer plans on testing the new blades first before deploying them in different remote sites. For HPs Livermore, Shorty looks to begin a new phase of the companys ability to offer a number of software and hardware products to the widest range of potential customers. As these midmarket businesses grow, HP can then step in to sell more advanced systems, such as its more advanced c-Class blades. "It really brings everything that we have talked about, all the software and all the technology that we have been talking about, into the enclosure that we call Shorty, and because its a blade, it has the ability to grow," Livermore said. "All midsize companies are looking to grow." Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest news, views and analysis on servers, switches and networking protocols for the enterprise and small businesses.


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