Hitachi Looks to Penetrate North American Blade Market

The company is launching a blade server with embedded virtualization software and which can use either Intel's Xeon or Itanium processors.

Hitachi America is eyeing the North American blade market.

The Brisbane, Calif.-based subsidiary of Hitachi announced Nov. 28 that it is rolling out a new blade server into the North American market, where it intends to compete with heavyweights like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Sun Microsystems.

The new server, which the company named BladeSymphony, is equipped with virtualization software embedded in the systems firmware.

In trying to achieve a level of flexibility, Hitachi is also offering users a choice of Intels dual-core Xeon "Woodcrest" processor or dual-core Itanium chip, said Elizabeth King, Hitachi Americans vice president and general manger for the Server Systems Group.

The blades were first introduced in Japan about 18 months ago. BladeSymphony will become available in North America starting in January, although some companies have begun testing beta versions. The company could not offer a specific price at this point, King said.

More known for its storage products and its high-end mainframes that are mostly used in Japan and East Asia, Hitachi is making a calculated move into the blade market, said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, in Hayward, Calif.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about virtualization.

Thanks to offerings from IBM and HP, blade servers have begun to build a reputation among IT professionals, but the market is not heavily saturated with any one product just yet. This makes it a good time to jump in, King said.

As for the actual product, Charles King said the company appears to be leveraging Intels technology and combining it with its own features, such as the embedded virtualization technology, which the company called Virtage.

"What they have is an enterprise-ready platform that is very flexible and very scalable," Charles King said.

The blades design allows for four servers to fit into a rack, and users can fit eight blades into a single chassis.

Each blade has 32GB of memory, a dual socket and four logical processors. The backplane design allows multiple blades to interconnect within the chassis.

The blades will fit into a 10u (17.5-inch) chassis and support two processors per system.

The configurations allow for an eight-processor, 16-way symmetric multiprocessing environment within a single chassis.

By mixing and matching the Xeon and Itanium processors within a rack, the server system is capable of running complex data bases and other enterprise applications, said Paul Figliozzi, the chief architect of Hitachi Services Systems.

/zimages/5/28571.gifClick here to read more about Hitachi and its storage offerings.

With the built-in virtualization feature and the interconnection of the blades within the chassis, Figliozzi said the Hitachi blade deploys partitions better within in the environment and gives customers better utilization.

The other selling point, Elizabeth King said, is that small and midsize business can increase from a 32-bit to a 64-bit system.

"Thats the beauty of it. You can start small and scale out," Elizabeth King said. "A company can grow out to the 64-bit configuration. Theres a lot of flexibility in this design."

The server also gives enterprises the ability to deploy the virtualization option and spread workloads throughout the datacenter, King said.

"You dont have to buy it [the virtualization software], and there is more security and a more reliability if its already inside the box," King said.

Hitachi said it plans on offering the new blade through direct sales at first and then moving it through its channel.

In addition, King left open the possibility that Hitachi would look toward adding Intels quad-core processor to its server line.

The new blades will run either Microsoft Windows or Linux operating systems, Hitachi executives said.

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