IBM BladeCenter S Nips at HP BladeSystem c3000 Shorty

I got to see one of the only IBM BladeCenter S systems in the world yesterday. It is comparable to the HP BladeSystem c3000 "Shorty" that was reviewed by my colleague Wayne Rash. The systems were on display side by side at an IBM office in San Francisco and it

I got to see one of the only IBM BladeCenter S systems in the world yesterday. It is comparable to the HP BladeSystem c3000 "Shorty" that was reviewed by my colleague Wayne Rash. The systems were on display side by side at an IBM office in San Francisco and it was quite a show. Now, first of all, let's be clear that this was IBM poking a stick at Hewlett-Packard. So I went to HP's site headlined "The Real Story About Shorty." Here HP goes through a seven-point "fact" check comparing the the HP BladeSystem c3000 to the IBM BladeCenter S. Here's my take on the fact sheet after seeing the units side by side. "Fact 1: IBM is comparing the yet-to-ship IBM BladeCenter S to the already available HP BladeSystem c3000." No argument here. The HP system is available today. The IBM spokesperson told me that the BladeCenter S would be shipping in about two weeks. eWEEK News reported that the systems would be shipping in December. So HP doesn't have much time left with fact No. 1. "Fact 2: IBM is claiming that they are leading the blade market while in fact HP is the blade market leader. In the most current IDC data, we extended our lead in blade server revenue, with 47.2% share, and units, with 46.2% share." I can't imagine that many customers or channel partners care whether HP or IBM is coming in first or second in a horse race this close. They are both big companies with established product and service track records. Availability, performance, price and service are the benchmarks by which these servers should be judged, not how big the obviously huge companies are that back them up. "Fact 3: IBM claims that the HP BladeSystem c3000 is more expensive but this is the result of an 'apples to bowling ball comparison.' In an 'apples to apples' configuration comparison, the HP BladeSystem c3000 has a lower list price than the IBM BladeCenter S." Hmmm...something is smelly in Denmark. Both companies have figures that show the other's product is more expensive when similarly equipped. I have a feeling that IBM may come out on top in this one when all the configuring is said and done. As soon as we can get an IBM system (score one for HP, as the IBM unit is still not available for review) it will be interesting to break down the price/performance numbers for our readers. "Fact 4: IBM claims that the HP BladeSystem c3000 is so loud that you can't hold a normal conversation nearby. HP testing of the HP BladeSystem c3000 has shown that in fact you can hold a normal conversation in the proximity of the HP BladeSystem c3000." Ahhh ... I didn't have a DB meter with me, but as far as the human ear test went, the IBM unit was far quieter than the HP Shorty. Even with the extra equipment that IBM added to make the systems comparable--in the opinion of IBM--turned off, Shorty was a loudy. The IBM BladeCenter S was significantly quieter. But is fan noise really the benchmark by which to judge computing equipment of this class? I'm not convinced that these systems are really going to be suitable for the open office environment. If, however, it is determined that one of these systems is going to be sharing space with people, the one I'd rather sit next to would be the IBM. "Fact 5: IBM claims that HP has limited storage options, but in fact HP offers a broad portfolio ... of both external and internal storage for HP BladeSystem c3000." Yeah, I think HP has a point here, and an important one. I think they should move this up the chart the next time they revise "The Real Story About Shorty." (Maybe in a couple weeks, when the IBM system starts shipping.) "Fact 6: IBM claims that HP Virtual Connect does not support industry-standard third-party switches like their Open Fabric Manager. The fact is that HP Virtual Connect can attach to any industry-standard Ethernet or NPIV-enabled Fibre Channel switch. Moreover, the HP Virtual Connect is an available product, shipping now, but IBM states that Open Fabric Manager is still forthcoming." Another important point ... I don't understand why this is so far down the list after rather silly things like fan noise. "Fact 7: IBM claims that HP does not support KVM (keyboard, video and mouse) for the HP BladeSystem c3000. In fact, the HP BladeSystem c3000 supports two options for KVM. * The built-in iLO processor on each ProLiant server blade delivers KVM functionality over IP. * For customers that want to attach the enclosure to a traditional in-rack KVM, HP offers a local KVM module for the c3000." In the IBM demo, the HP KVM solution was an ugly snare of cables. We'll have to see about the most effective way to KVM into the system. Here's a Shorty fact that HP left out ... the number of power cords needed to run the thing. The IBM system showed up with just two power cords. There were something like 13 power cords needed to power up the HP Shorty. Again, this is something we'll have to adjudicate in Lab testing to ensure that IBM, with an obvious motive for making the Shorty look as bad as possible, didn't rig up an unnecessarily tangled scenario. If it turns out to be true, however, then this could be a problem. Also, there were significant questions about heat generation and memory usage that we will be monitoring in our Labs testing. There you have it. Watch for ongoing server coverage from Wayne Rash and see how the Shorty story evolves.