IBM is rolling out Express versions of its blade server platform designed for small and midsize businesses.
The Armonk, N.Y., company is bundling its Express middleware onto its BladeCenter offerings to create a blade environment that is easy to deploy and scalable, said Elaine Lennox, vice president of SMB for IBMs Systems & Technology Group.
The announcement of BladeCenter Business Express Tuesday comes less than a week after rival Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., unveiled its own SMB offering in its BladeSystem platform, which includes a smaller and less expensive power supply enclosure and new services to make deployment easier.
Lennox said a key difference between IBMs blade initiative and those of competitors is that IBM is focusing more on the whole package. "Its not about hardware," she said. "Its about integrated solutions you can deliver to customers."
For IBM, that means combining its middleware with the BladeCenter systems. The offering creates building-block capabilities, where the Express systems are easily integrated into a customers existing environment and can be added onto in a modular fashion, Lennox said.
"You only need to have one blade to start … and you can just add blades as you grow," she said.
Like HP, IBM also is relying on channel partners to help implement the strategy by packaging and distributing the Express configurations.
The Express blades currently come in four starter configurations aimed at such areas as collaboration and business integration, and are available for Linux and Microsoft Corp.s Windows operating systems. IBM is working on several other starter configurations that will be rolled out in a phased approach throughout the year, said Juhi Jotwani, director of BladeCenter Alliances for IBM.
Middleware that can be bundled onto the blades include Workplace Services Express, WebSphere Business Integration Server Express, Express Runtime and WebSphere Portal Express.
The blades used in the Express offerings is the Intel Corp.-based BladeCenter HS20. However, customers can request Express configurations running the PowerPC 970-based JS20 or the LS20, powered by Advanced Micro Devices Inc.s Opteron chip, Jotwani said.
The systems are available immediately in North America, with lease pricing starting at $120 per month for a portal server handling up to 20 users. To buy, pricing starts at $4,500. They will be available in other regions in the third and fourth quarters.