IBM Goes After Dell, HP Blade Customers

IBM's Blade Migration Center offers services and financial incentives to entice rivals' users to its BladeCenter platform.

IBM is planning to use a combination of services and incentives to entice customers currently using rival blade servers onto its BladeCenter platform.

IBMs Blade Migration Center, introduced Sept. 20, is designed to steal away business from Hewlett-Packard and Dell and give IBM a greater lead in the fastest-growing segment of the server space, a space that analyst firm IDC, of Framingham, Mass., is predicting to swell from $2.2 billion in 2005 to $10 billion in 2010.

The Armonk, N.Y., tech giant will use 300 consultants worldwide in the program and also will offer existing HP blade server users $1,000 to make the switch. Included among the migration services the consultants will offer are assessments of users current setups, a lineup of what IBM architecture theyll need, preparation and planning for the migration, and skill transfer and training.

"Weve armed a global team of consultants with key tools, and collaborated with industry-leading technology vendors, to help clients easily migrate to blade servers to help simplify their data center infrastructure, reduce costs and improve business efficiency," Doug Balog, vice president and business line executive for IBMs BladeCenter business, said in a statement.

The program also offers IBMs Consolidation Discovery and Analysis Tool, software the consultants can use to help customers increase the utilization of their servers, find IT consolidation opportunities and virtualize their systems.

In addition, the program will touch upon such topics as storage virtualization, high-speed networking and data center cooling through partners such as Cisco Systems, PlateSpin and Innovative Research.

IBMs move comes at a time when all four of the top OEMs are making moves to improve their blade server offerings. IBM—which holds about 40 percent of the market, with HP in second with about 36 percent, according to IDC—in February unveiled its BladeCenter H chassis, which includes greater I/O capabilities than previous BladeCenters. In addition, older IBM blade systems can run in the new chassis.

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IBM also introduced new blades based on its Power architecture and the new Cell technology, as well as new management capabilities. IBM also offers blades powered by Intel and Advanced Micro Devices chips.

For its part, HP, of Palo Alto, Calif., in June unveiled its new blade server architecture, dubbed the BladeSystem c-Class server. A key difference—and one IBM is hoping to exploit—is that HPs older p-Class blades wont run in the c-Class chassis. Still, the blade systems can interoperate via common management tools and interfaces, and HP plans to continue selling the p-Class systems through next year, and supporting them into 2012.

In her speech Sept. 18 at the HP Technology Forum in Houston, Ann Livermore, executive vice president of the companys Technology Solutions Group, touted the new blade architecture, calling it an "adaptive infrastructure in a 17-inch box."

She lauded the increased virtualization and simplified management of the systems—which also are powered by Intel and AMD chips—and said that it offered 40 percent savings in energy costs over the p-Class servers.

Along with the x86 systems, HP also offers Integrity blades running on Intels Itanium 2 chips, and officials have said blades running on their NonStop high-availability systems and Superdome high-end servers also are on the way.

In June, Dell, of Round Rock, Texas, introduced the PowerEdge 1955 blades running dual-core Intel Xeon chips, a long-awaited refresh of its legacy blades and a key part of the companys push to capture leadership in the performance-per-watt metric.

For its part, Sun Microsystems, of Santa Clara, Calif., in July introduced its AMD Opteron-based blade, the Sun Blade 8000, and in September put its multicore UltraSPARC T1 "Niagara" chip into two blade servers for the telecommunications industry.

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