Hitachi Takes Second Shot at North American Blade Market

The Japanese company is launching a second blade server that it hopes can penetrate a market dominated by the likes of IBM and Hewlett-Packard.

Hitachi wants a piece of the North American blade market for itself.

After introducing its first blade server for the North American market in November, Hitachi is ready to introduce a second system — the BladeSymphony 320 — on April 17.

Hitachis first blade, the BladeSymphony 1000, is geared at enterprises that need support for complex databases and other applications. The newer blade is designed to appeal to midmarket businesses, such as financial companies and retail stores, looking for back-end application support.

Hitachi is working closely with Intel and is offering only its dual-core and quad-core Xeon processors with the two-socket BladeSymphony 320. The companys previous blade offering used both Xeon and Itanium processors.

Although the North American blade market is lucrative, the space is dominated by IBM and Hewlett-Packard, which offer a number of blade servers. According to the latest survey by Gartner, the worldwide blade markets revenue grew by 36.5 percent, while shipments increased 33 percent. Between IBM and HP, the two represent three-quarters of blade market revenue worldwide.

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Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research, said the two blades offer some of Hitachis most creative designs and incorporate some of the same engineering technology found in the companys mainframe servers, which remain popular in Japan and throughout the rest of Asia.

However, getting IT customers to change vendors is a lot easier said than done.

"Its very hard to displace entrenched vendors," King said. "What Hitachi is doing is releasing these blades first in Japan and then introducing them into the American market about six months later. That gives them the ability to say that they have worked all the bugs out. Still, trying to penetrate this market, even with solid hardware, takes a lot of time and a lot of money."

Hitachi, which is based in Japan but has a U.S. subsidiary in Brisbane, Calif., seems to realize that its facing an uphill battle. Steve Campbell, vice president of marketing for Hitachis Server Systems Group, said the company views itself as a startup in the North American market but a startup with brand-name recognition.

"There is an opportunity out there," Campbell said. "Companies are looking for solutions that address density and power concerns so that they can save power and electricity in the data center. The idea is to give them a solution that gives them the ability to do more with less."

One advantage Hitachis blade has is its power supply. The new BladeSymphony system offers a 110-volt option that Campbell said gives midmarket and smaller businesses the ability to plug into a standard wall socket.

"This means that companies dont need the power configuration found in a large data center," Campbell said.

/zimages/3/28571.gifClick here to read more about power and cooling in the data center.

The BladeSymphony 320 will be offered in a 6U (10.5-inch) chassis that is compatible for a 19-inch rack. However, unlike the BladeSymphony 1000, the newer model does not have virtualization capabilities embedded in the firmware, although Hitachi officials said future models may offer embedded virtualization technology.

The system also offers several dual-core Xeon models with clock speeds of 1.6GHz, 2.33GHz and 3.0GHz. The blade can also be configured with one of Intels quad-core Xeon models with clock speeds of either 1.6GHz or 2.33GHz.

The system has 16GB of memory and can hold two hot-swappable SAS (Serial Attached SCSI) hard drives or two SATA (Serial ATA) hard drives. The SAS hard drives can hold a maximum of 73GB of data each and the SATA hard drives can hold up to 80GB each. Each drive can support RAID 0 and 1 configurations.

The server also supports four gigabit Ethernet ports per blade. In addition to supporting Microsofts Windows Server 2003, the system supports Red Hat Linux.

The BladeSymphony is immediately available in North America from Hitachi for a base price of about $10,000, the company said.

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