IBM Sharpens SMB Blade Plans

IBM unveils a host of features and offerings aimed at making it easier for small and midsize businesses to adopt blade servers.

IBM on May 10 unveiled a host of features and offerings aimed at making it easier for small and midsize businesses to adopt blade servers.

Among the offerings are a low-priced, entry-level networking switch for the companys BladeCenter systems; integration with IBMs System i servers; and financing options.

Kelly Quinn, an analyst at IDC, said IBM seems to be making the right moves to attract SMBs. Blades fit the bill because theyre "customizable and affordable and not very complex," which is appropriate for SMBs, since they tend to lack very large IT departments, said Quinn in Framingham, Mass.

The new offerings represent a convergence of two key businesses for IBM, which is aggressively courting the SMB space. The blade market is expected to grow to about $15 billion by 2009, according to IDC, and currently IBM is the leader in that space.

IBM is looking to bring out next quarter a blade with the nine-core Cell chip, jointly developed by Toshiba and Sony.

In February, IBM introduced the BladeCenter H chassis, which offers 10 times the I/O bandwidth of its predecessor and can run any current or future system, IBM officials said. The chassis also comes with new management tools.

In addition, IBM is pushing to expand the reach of its blade offerings through partners via its group, which invites vendors to build solutions based on BladeCenter.

The new Server Connectivity Module, priced at $999, gives users a low-cost and low-maintenance networking switch blade that lets administrators map blades and NICs (network interface cards) to servers, said Tim Dougherty, director of IBMs BladeCenter business, in Armonk, N.Y.

Through Windows management technology, users also will now be able to more closely link the BladeCenter platform to System i platforms, allowing them to use the virtual storage, networking and tape resources in the System i for Windows server management on the blades.

A new service, IBM Implementation Services Servicepac for BladeCenter, is designed to help SMBs deploy a bladed environment. Under the service, offered through IBM Global Services, IBM will send people to a customers site to help them set up their blade systems.

IBM also is offering a financing plan through IBM Global Financing that includes low monthly leasing payments.