In the 80's, IBM opened the design of its PC and created the personal computing phenomenon that now pervades our lives. In July of 2005, the company announced a second act by forming Blade.org. Founded along with Brocade, Cisco, Citrix, Intel, NetApp, Nortel, Novell and VMWare, Blade.org's mission was "to accelerate the expansion of solutions for the BladeCenter" (See the original 2005 press release). Essentially, IBM was opening the blade center design -- something it had created with Intel -- and was now encouraging its widespread use.
Today, Blade.org took another step in encouraging the development of products based on the Blade Center by announcing the formation of a Venture Capital Advisory Board. Board membership is somewhat predictable, but nonetheless impressive, with Intel Capital, Mayfield, USVP and Walden mentioned in the release.
This venture board may give Blade.org the shot in the arm that it badly needs. When IBM announced its effort in 2005, it sat comfortably atop the blade market, with HP in second place and all others well behind the two leaders. Since then, HP has managed to whittle away at IBM's lead and (according to IDC) now has a slight lead over IBM in overall blade market share. Besides HP, Sun is also now a viable competitor in the blade market as are a number of second tier server manufactures, many of whom now offer designs that more innovative than IBM's.
In a market with such viable alternatives, the openness of the standard is far less important than the effectiveness of the actual product. While it's a good thing that IBM is trying to create an ecosystem around its design, it will have to continue to innovate at least as fast as its competitors.