IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. want to make their respective blade server platforms more attractive to midsize businesses by making them easier to buy and deploy.
To that end, both companies are rolling out bundled offerings that ease the cost and work involved in adopting blades. The strategies also rely heavily on channel partners to help package and distribute the systems.
IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., last week launched its BladeCenter Business Express offering, a bundling of Express versions of its middleware with its blade servers. The goal is to create building-block capabilities, where the Express systems are integrated easily into a customers existing environment and can be added on to in a modular fashion, said Elaine Lennox, vice president of Small and Medium Business for IBMs Systems and Technology Group.
"You only need to have one blade to start ... and you can just add blades as you grow," Lennox said.
The Express blades currently come in four starter configurations aimed at such areas as collaboration and business integration, and are available for Linux and Windows. IBM is working on several other starter configurations that will be rolled out in phases throughout the year, said Juhi Jotwani, director of BladeCenter Alliances for IBM.
The BladeCenter Express offerings are based on Intel Corp.s HS20 blade, although customers can request either the JS20, which runs on IBMs own PowerPC 970 chip, or the new LS20, which is powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron processor, Jotwani said.
Middleware that can be bundled with the blades include Workplace Services Express, WebSphere Business Integration Server Express, Express Runtime and WebSphere Portal-Express.
Anaconda Sports Inc., a 200-employee company in Kingston, N.Y., that markets sports equipment to amateur and school leagues, standardized and consolidated its three Web sites onto BladeCenter systems running Express versions of WebSphere Commerce Server and WebSphere Application Server, as well as DB2 Universal Database.
The infrastructure, hosted by Strategic Computer Solutions Inc., of Syracuse, N.Y., and running on Red Hat Inc.s Red Hat Enterprise Linux, has resulted in a 20 percent jump in sales by enabling the company to better manage its e-commerce applications, said Rob Meyer, director of Internet services for Anaconda. Tasks that were done manually, such as order entry, are now automated, he said.
"We were at a point where we were getting so much traffic, the sites were just shutting down," Meyer said. "The sites were in danger of being knocked out altogether if we didnt find a more expedient solution."
For its part, HP earlier in the month unveiled a new BladeSystem configuration with a smaller and more affordable 1U (1.75-inch) power enclosure. In addition, through its services unit, HP also wants to make it easier to deploy blades.
The Palo Alto, Calif., company is rolling out more training and marketing tools aimed at channel partners to help them sell and service BladeSystems.
The moves are part of an initiative launched in March to drive blade adoption among SMBs (small and midsize businesses). HPs Blades for Business is part of an expansion of HPs Smart Office strategy.
"Most of the success weve had [with BladeSystem] has been in the enterprise or real sophisticated medium businesses ... that have an IT focus to them," said Vince Gayman, HPs director of worldwide SMB product programs. "What were looking for is the more commercial medium business. ... What were trying to enable is for that customer that might only have 10 or 20 servers today, blades will be an alternative that they might not have considered before."
The new power enclosure can be included as part of a bundled offering that includes a single ProLiant blade server, a BladeSystem enclosure and management software.
In addition, HP is offering a new "care package" to customers—the Installation and Startup for BladeSystem Infrastructure—through its services group to help get the customers blade platform up and running.
HP is also pushing the platform through its channel partners. Through its BladeSystem Partner Sales Kit, HP is giving them tools to help them support BladeSystem deployments.
Later this month, HP will include links in its Americas Partner Portal to the Blades for Business Solution Guide, offering a host of training and marketing collateral to partners.