IBM Extends Hosted Client to Banks

The company is introducing the System Solutions for Branch Banking, a bundled offering that will include either BladeCenter or xSeries servers running VMware technology and leveraging ClearCube Technology's I/Port Ethernet product.

IBM is growing its hosted client line with an offering aimed at financial services institutions and banks.

The Armonk, N.Y., last month rolled out its Virtualized Hosted Client Infrastructure, a server-based computing initiative that features its BladeCenter blade servers, VMware Inc.s virtualization technology and Citrix Systems Inc.s Presentation Server technology.

On Monday, IBM is introducing the System Solutions for Branch Banking, a bundled offering that will include either BladeCenter or IBMs Intel Corp.-based xSeries servers running VMware technology and leveraging ClearCube Technology Inc.s I/Port Ethernet product to link a users desktop to the centrally located server.

It also will use the ClearCube Management Suite and IBMs Branch Transformation software.

ClearCube, of Austin, Texas, is a pioneer in the PC blade space and a growing player in the server-based computing field that also includes thin client vendors such as Neoware Systems Inc. and Wyse Technology Inc. Hewlett-Packard Co. also offers products in both the PC blade and thin client arenas with its Consolidated Client Infrastructure, and other OEMs—such as IBM and Lenovo Group Ltd. —resell ClearCube technology.

Douglas Balog, vice president of IBMs BladeCenter group, said teaming with ClearCube for the banking venture made sense.

"ClearCube already has strong recognition in the financial services field," Balog said.

The new offering is designed to let banks centralize operations, enabling them to increase security and improve manageability of their infrastructures. The systems support both Linux and Microsoft Corp.s Windows and will grow as third-party software vendors develop applications for the BladeCenter platform.

For example, IBM said Datacom Systems Inc. has created a version of its video surveillance system for the BladeCenter systems, which is available as an option on the new System Solutions for Branch Banking.

The blade server space, tagged at about $2 billion by analyst firm IDC, is an increasingly competitive one, with IBM and HP the top vendors. Both are aggressively looking for ways to expand the reach of their respective platforms.

IBM is leaning heavily on partnerships with other industry vendors. In 2002, IBM and Intel teamed to create the BladeCenter Alliance to entice other companies to build solutions for the platform. Two years later, IBM and Intel opened up the BladeCenter specifications.

In addition, IBM and nine other vendors, including Intel, Cisco Systems Inc. and VMware, in July unveiled the group, another initiative designed to create an industry community around BladeCenter.

Balog said the members are working now to create the various working groups needed to get the initiative off the ground. The groups are working on such issues as compatibility and interoperability, marketing, bylaws and solutions architecture. They are expected to meet again in Dallas next month.

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IBM currently offers blades running Xeon chips from Intel, Opteron from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. and its own PowerPC 970 chip. Next year IBM will upgrade the JS20 to the PowerPC 970MP dual-core chip and Intels dual-core Xeon, codenamed "Dempsey." Balog said Intels first dual-core "Paxville" Xeon was a short-term product, and IBM decided instead not to put that into BladeCenter.

IBM next year also will introduce a new chassis with greater networking capabilities.

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