IBM, Intel Opening Blade Server Switch Specifications

IBM and Intel have inked an agreement that will open up IBM's BladeCenter blade server switch specifications for inclusion into Intel's Server Systems Infrastructure organization. The Intel SSI organization is an industry standards group that looks to better define server standards. IBM, which first began opening up its blade server architecture in 2004, is fighting for blade market share against Hewlett-Packard. The two companies control about 75 percent of the world's blade markets.

IBM and Intel have signed a new agreement that will open up IBM's BladeCenter switch specifications to other blade server vendors in a move that looks to spur development of new, lower-cost blade technology and products.

Under the agreement, which the two companies announced Oct. 23, IBM will open up its BladeCenter switch technology specifications through Intel's Server Systems Infrastructure. The Intel SSI is an industry standards organization that Intel helped found to define standards for blade servers.

For years, Intel and SSI have looked to enable third-party vendors to develop lower-cost blade servers and allow for interoperability between the physical blade systems, the chassis and management software. One of the missing components of some of the specifications that SSI has released has been switch technology.

SSI provides standards for developing low-cost blades, including specifications on power supplies, midplane and backplane design, and the electronic bays within the chassis.

IBM and Intel are also part of IBM's group, which also looks to drive open standards for blade servers. In July, IBM announced that Rackable Systems will also join and that Rackable will then use IBM's BladeCenter systems within its modular data center.

Blade servers remain one of the most important parts of the overall server market. In the second quarter of 2008, IDC found that blade revenue grew 40 percent from a year ago and topped $1.2 billion for the quarter. The overall worldwide server market was worth about $14 billion in revenue during the quarter.

IBM and Hewlett-Packard remain the two largest players in the market. HP controlled about 53 percent of the worldwide blade market in the second quarter of 2008, while IBM controlled about 25 percent.