Hitachi Grows Blade Server Options

Hitachi Server Group rolls out a new enterprise-class BladeSymphony 2000 blade system and an enhanced BladeSymphony 320, part of its aggressive push into the highly competitive North American blade server market currently dominated by HP and IBM. Both new blade systems are powered by Intel's new Xeon 5500 Series Nehalem EP chips and take advantage of Hitachi's own Virtage virtualization technology. The BladeSymphony 2000 is aimed at I/O-intensive workloads and virtualization-based consolidation projects.

Hitachi continues to aggressively build out its blade server portfolio, rolling out a new enterprise-class system and updating its mid-range offering.

Hitachi Server Group announced the BladeSymphony 2000 and new blades for its BladeSymphony 320 May 19. The rollouts come two years after officials with Hitachi-a Japanese company with a subsidiary in Brisbane, Calif.-said they were making a second run at the highly competitive North American blade business, a fast-growing market dominated by Hewlett-Packard and IBM.

The new blades are powered by Intel's new Xeon 5500 Series chips-also known as Nehalem EP-and extends the reach of Hitachi's hardware-based Virtage virtualization technology, introduced last year, which takes advantage of Intel's chip-based VT virtualization capabilities.

The BladeSymphony 2000 also offers high throughput and a number of configuration options, key drivers for Hitachi's goals for differentiating its systems from those of competitors, according to Steve Campbell, vice president of marketing and solutions for Hitachi Server Group.

"The focus of our product development efforts has been balanced performance and maximum flexibility," Campbell said in a statement. "Our balanced architecture delivers the high-productivity computing needed for enterprise-class workloads, and the choices we offer in virtualization technologies and industry-standard components give our customers by far the broadest configuration flexibility in the industry."

Though battered by the global recession, the worldwide blade server market is still growing. Research firm IDC reported that in the fourth quarter 2008, revenue grew 16.1 percent and shipments 12.1 percent over the same period in 2007-still positive, but slowing. Blades make up 10.4 of the overall server market and 18.5 percent of all x86 servers, according to IDC.

HP continued its strong leadership role, with a 54.8 percent share of revenue, followed by IBM, at 21.7 percent. Rounding out the top five were Sun Microsystems, Dell and Fujitsu.

Hitachi is aiming its high-end BladeSymphony 2000 at workloads that demand high interconnect capabilities and virtualization-based consolidation projects.

Each blade in the 10U, eight-blade system supports up to 144GB of memory and 162 Gigabits per second of throughput on each blade. The hybrid I/O subsystem supports both PCIe and unique interconnect interfaces. The system also includes the Virtage virtualization technology, which Hitachi officials said the company derived from its mainframe days. The BladeSymphony 2000 can support hardware virtualization, VMware products and Microsoft Hyper-V technology on a single system.

Enhancements to the BladeSymphony 320 include not only the addition of Intel's new Xeon processors, but also four new blades. One is optimized for standard configurations, while a second is aimed at SAN (storage-area network) connectivity, according to Hitachi officials.

A third supports six 300GB SAS drives for up to 1.8 terabytes per blade. In addition, a PCI blade will be released later this year.

The BladeSymphony 2000 and enhanced 320 will be available June 1.