Hitachi Boosts Blade Options

Hitachi is adding Intel's newer Itanium chips into its blade lineup.

Hitachi is looking to beef up its blade offerings with the latest Intel Itanium processors.

The company announced June 24 that it would add Intel's 9100 series Itanium chips to its high-end BladeSymphony 1000 systems, as well as its lower-end BladeSymphony 320 servers.

Additionally, Hitachi will begin offering the latest dual-core Intel Xeon 5200 series processors along with Intel's quad-core Xeon 5400 chips with both sets of BladeSymphony systems.

This latest announcement from Hitachi, which has been trying to break into the North American blade market since 2006, comes just after Hewlett-Packard announced its Integrity NonStop NB50000c BladeSystem, which is also based on Itanium processors and is designed for financial, telecommunications, public sector and high-volume Web 2.0 companies.

The big difference between the two is that while HP has positioned the NB5000c system as an alternative for the mainframe, Hitachi is looking to leverage its legacy mainframe technology, especially virtualization, to offer an alternative in a crowded field that is full of systems aimed at data center consolidation projects.

What Hitachi is offering is called Virtage, an embedded hardware virtualization technology that provides an abstraction layer that decouples the physical system from the operating system to provide utilization and additional flexibility. Since the virtualization is built into the hardware itself, it is more reliable and secure than virtualization based on a hypervisor, according to Hitachi.

"Hitachi does not seem to be playing at mainframe poaching," Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, wrote in an e-mail. "Instead, they're positioning Virtage as a 'mainframe-derived' technology that is more seamless and powerful than competing virtualization solutions for x86 and Unix platforms."

What Hitachi cannot offer is market share. In the latest survey by IDC, HP was first in overall server revenue with more than $3.7 billion in global sales, and the company also controlled 46.9 percent of the worldwide $1.2 billion blade market during the first quarter of 2008.

Meanwhile, Hitachi did not finish in either the top five in the United States or in the worldwide market, where HP, IBM, Dell, Sun Microsystems and Fujitsu/Fujitsu Siemens all dominate.

In addition to the new Itanium and Xeon processors, Hitachi is adding a Web-based console for the BladeSymphony 320 system, which should reduce maintenance and installation time while making administrative tasks and management easier.