IBM Revs Blade Strategy Pace

Vendor will roll out four-way HS40 server and two-way BladeCenter JS20.

SOMERS, N.Y.—One year after shipping its first blade server, IBM is looking to vastly expand its BladeCenter offerings this year and to stretch the technology further into the companys overall eServer strategy.

IBM this week will roll out its first four-way blade server, the HS40, that is powered by Intel Corp. Xeon chips. Later this quarter, IBM will announce the general availability of its two-processor BladeCenter JS20, the first blade server running IBMs 64-bit 1.6GHz PowerPC 970 chips.

The moves are a continuation of the companys blade run, which began a year ago and left it with top market rankings by the end of the third quarter. The company, which outpaced Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Inc. in both blade shipments and revenue, is now considering storage, management software and switching options for BladeCenter systems.

It will also continue to use the technology as a key tool in the companys infrastructure simplification initiative introduced in October. The initiative links IBMs blades with its zSeries mainframes to reduce data center complexity.

The moves come as blade servers—thin systems that slip into a chassis and share such components as network connectivity—continue to get a closer look from customers.

"The customer is not [saying], I want to buy a server," said Susan Whitney, general manager of IBMs Intel-based eServer xSeries systems. "The customers are saying they want to buy an infrastructure architecture. ... I can only see [blade sales] continuing to grow. The only question will be the slope of the growth."

The BladeCenter HS40, a four-way system powered by Intels 2.8GHz Xeon MP chips, will offer 1MB of cache. While the system will follow the release of the first four-way blade, HPs ProLiant BL40p, by a year, the HS40 will be more dense, IBM officials said. For example, it will enable users to fit seven of the servers into a 7U (12.25-inch) chassis, compared with the BL40p, which can fit two of its blades.

Like the ProLiant, the BladeCenter chassis can hold both two- and four-way Xeon-based systems. But, like the HP system, the PowerPC-based BladeCenter can run Windows or Linux operating systems in the same chassis.

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