Hewlett-Packard Co. will release beefier blade servers with dual Intel Corp. processors “shortly,” according to a company executive, adding that unit sales of its relatively new ultradense systems are already surpassing those of earlier thin-chassis designs.
Aiming to fuel wider adoption of its blades, HP, based in Palo Alto, Calif., will soon introduce the Proliant BL p-class, first with dual Pentium III chips this quarter and blades packed with four Intel Xeon chips by early 2003. Currently, HPs Proliant BL e-class features a single Pentium III chip.
The switch to heftier chips means blades, currently targeted to run modest tasks, such as hosting Web pages, will be able to handle more robust business applications, adding to the appeal of the compact design introduced only last year..
“Were seeing very good take-up of the blade server technology, faster than anticipated,” said Mary McDowell, general manager of HPs Industry Standard (Intel-based) Servers Global Business Unit. “Were starting to see the volumes passing some of the 1U [1.75-inch-thick] configurations in recent months.”
According to market researcher International Data Corp., blades will account for about 20 percent of units shipped by 2005.
Prior to the arrival of blade servers, 1U servers (shaped like pizza boxes) were the most compact design available. The systems are among the industrys best selling, valued not only for their relative low cost (averaging about $2,000), but for their thin design that enables users to stack 42 of the 1U servers in an industry-standard 6-foot-tall rack.
Blades, however, are even more compact. By reducing a server to little more than a motherboard and processor, computer makers have been able to dramatically boost the number of servers in a rack. Companies prize such compact designs to ease space constraints within data centers.
By lining the blades up vertically, like books on a bookshelf, the HP Proliant BL e-class system can fit 20 blades into a 3U (5.25-inch) chassis, and up to 280 servers into a standard 6-foot rack.
Several startup companies, such as Texas-based RLX Technologies, first introduced blades to the market last year.
In January, Compaq Computer Corp. became the first top-tier computer maker to offer the form factor. HP acquired the product line in May in its buyout of Houston-based Compaq. HPs earlier blade design, now called the HP Server BH series, is targeted solely for use in the telecommunications industry.
In coming months, several major U.S. companies plan to introduce their own blade designs, including Dell Computer Corp., IBM and Sun Microsystems Inc.
The first blade servers on the market utilized mobile PC processors because they ran cooler and used less power, which are required of the ultradense designs. HPs Proliant BL e-class featured a 700MHz Intel Pentium III processor originally designed as a notebook chip.
However, such chips were less than ideal for running compute-intensive business applications, spurring computer makers to target their systems at mostly Web hosting companies and Internet service providers who could deploy them for simple tasks, such as serving up static Web pages.
“The priorities in developing the e-class were around low voltage, high density and performance, in that order,” said McDowell, who oversaw Compaqs Industry Standard Servers prior to the HP buyout.
But HP took a different tack in developing its p-class servers, moving to a dual-processor blade this quarter and a four-Xeon blade server in early 2003.
“Were starting to design more for the true enterprise customer, and so were starting to see the density designs get balanced with needs for performance and availability characteristics as well,” she said. “In the p-class, it is really the triangulation of performance, availability and density.”
While HP has yet to reveal how many blades its p-class will pack into a rack, the use of hotter, power-hungry Xeon chips is expected to result in a system featuring less than half as many blades per rack as the e-class.
But by sacrificing some density, customers will be able to tap more performance, McDowell said.
“Weve been in beta with our dual-processor machines for about nine months, and during that time were seeing more use of Microsoft Exchange and application server software like Citrix,” she said. “Citrix seems like its going to be a hot segment for blades.”
HPs blade sales are also helping boost the companys software revenues, since management software is crucial to deploying and monitoring the servers, which must rely on external storage.
“Its definitely not a hardware-only play,” McDowell said. “The software attach rates are running close to 50 percent. We hadnt had an explicit software for revenue business before, so were pleased to see a strong pickup of that.”
- Evaluation: Blade to Order
- HP, RLX Sharpen Blade Servers
- IBM Strengthens Ultradense Blade Server
- Dell is New “Blade” Runner
- Tech Analysis: Sharpening Server Blades