IBM, Intel Open Blade Server Platform

In a bid to boost the credibility of the blade-server paradigm, which provide storage, networking and other functions in a small form factor, IBM and Intel jointly announced that the design specifications for the eServer BladeCenter platform would be made widely available to other vendors to encourage hardware support.

IBM and Intel have already codeveloped products for their collaborative BladeCenter platform. The two companies said the move to open up the platform specifications was aimed at broadening the blade market by encouraging more third-party hardware and software. The companies said they will both provide technical support to assist product development, including design guidelines and fee-based support.

“This makes it easy for our [blade server] ecosystem partners to develop products that are compatible and interoperable with IBM BladeCenter,” IBM director of eServer BladeCenter Juhi Jotwani told TechNewsWorld. “We thought by opening this up, we allowed other vendors to participate freely in the blade center market.”

Design Help, Market Driving Hope

IBM and Intel, which are providing the specifications with royalty-free licenses, said the move will help ensure that future BladeCenter-based deployments will integrate seamlessly into customers’ IT infrastructures.

“We’ve been in the blade market successfully with the latest IDC figures showing us number one with 44 percent [of blade server market share],” Jotwani said. “We’ve also been getting customer feedback on what will help us grow this business and get into mainstream growth business.”

IBM and Intel both said the effort would allow enterprise networking vendors, some of which have already released products for the BladeCenter under nondisclosure agreements, to enter products into the blade market more easily.

Jotwani said that by opening up the BladeCenter platform, IBM and Intel were both putting their original equipment manufacturer (OEM) weight behind the blade initiative. She added that the availability of the BladeCenter specs would give manufacturers more flexibility in their own designs.

Intel’s blade product line manager Pat Buddenbaum told TechNewsWorld that the move will increase the breadth of other blade products that are offered, particularly networking switches.

Adding Appliances

IBM and Intel representatives both said that in addition to networking switches, the opening of the BladeCenter specifications might also pave the way for single-function and other appliances in the blade server environment.

Jotwani, who referred to storage and switches as prominent areas for product developments, said that there has been interest from security companies looking to create appliances for the blade environment.

Buddenbaum said that other appliances that might be ported to the blade setting include single-function devices for digital surveillance or for the medical industry.

Taking Blades to Telecom

IBM and Intel also said the availability of BladeCenter specs will allow telecommunications vendors to create a common infrastructure between a carrier’s enterprise and IT infrastructure. The companies called their move a complement to the industry standards-based Advanced TCA (ATCA) specification for platforms used throughout the service-provider public network.

Jotwani said the companies, which could not announce names, had received positive feedback from telecom providers that are migrating from older, closed systems to open systems and Linux.

IDC analyst Jean Bozman told TechNewsWorld that the lower-end blade server market has typically had high numbers of shipments and lower revenue figures in the overall server market, where blades accounted for an estimated 8 percent of server sales in 2004.

By 2006, that market share is expected to be at 18 percent, with wider adoption, more solutions from more vendors and announcements such as the one from IBM and Intel, according to Bozman.

“We do see them ramping up,” she said. “It’s getting up there and it’s getting noticeable not just in units but in revenue as well.”

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