HP Brandishes Blades

HP's new blade tech looks to offer servers, storage, and supercomputing in a single box

June 15, 2006

4 Min Read
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HP fired a shot across the bow of blade leader IBM today with the launch of its new c-Class family of products, which the vendor is touting as way for users to combine server, storage, and even high-performance computing in a single box. (See HP Unveils Blade Design.)

At the heart of the c-Class is a new 10U-high chassis. This chassis, according to HP execs on a conference call this morning, can support a range of HP blades, from new ProLiant offerings to storage blades. Ultimately, the platform will also support blades based on the vendor's high-end Superdome and NonStop server technologies.

Throughout today's event, HP execs kept describing the new technology as an "adaptive infrastructure in a 17-inch box," a mantra designed to tie the announcement to the vendor's Adaptive Enterprise strategy. (See HP Gets Virtual.) That loosely defined initiative is meant to be the launch pad for a range of products and services similar to those from IBM.

Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's Technology Solutions Group, threw her arms around the box at this morning's conference, declaring, "I love this product." Compared to traditional rack mounted systems users could save 50 percent in purchase and acquisition costs over a three-year period.

Paul Miller and Mark Potter, vice presidents of HP's BladeSystem division, jointly touted the scalability of the new blade system. Unlike IBM's recently launched 9U-high BladeCenter H system, which supports 14 blade servers, the c-Class can handle up to 16 servers. (See IBM Sharpens SMB Blades and IBM Goes for SMB Blades.)As well as the chassis, HP unveiled two new ProLiant c-Class blades -- a hardware module for turning storage and server blades into virtual machines -- and a slew of new power and cooling features, which execs claimed will help users overcome some of users' long-standing blade concerns. (See Data Center Heat Wave and Vegas Blade Warning.)

HP is also offering support for 10-Gbit/s Ethernet on the new system, with InfiniBand connectivity provided via a partnership with Voltaire and Mellanox and Brocade offering a 4-Gbit/s Fibre Channel SAN switch for the c-Class. (See Mellanox, Voltaire Power HP and Brocade Provides Connectivity.)

But the new c-Class technology could also spell trouble for users of HP's existing ProLiant blades, which will now be phased out. Livermore added that the firm's previous blade offerings will be sold through 2007 and supported through 2012. "We will continue standing behind the products that we currently have."

That said, today's announcement underlines HP's ongoing commitment to its storage operation. Despite speculation last year that the vendor may spin off its troubled storage business, HP has instead refocused its energies on the division, unveiling a major upgrade of its midrange EVA family of products last year and new products earlier this year. (See Poll: HP Should Keep Storage, HP Plans EVA Facelift, HP Hoists New Storage Products, HP Plans HW/SW Upgrades, and IBM Expands 4-Gbit/s & Backup.)

"It's certainly a good thing for HP to do, and a way for them to leverage their StorageWorks program," explained Charles King, principal analyst at Pund-IT. "I think that the concept of using blades as a 'data center box' is a good value proposition."Livermore confirmed that HP will be take its own medicine and use the new c-Class technology as part of its plans to consolidate 85 data centers into just six sites. The recently announced initiative, which is expected to save $1 billion over the next few years, is part of a long-term restructuring initiative. (See HP to Shrink 'n' Save and HP Reports Q2.) "The blade system will be at the heart of the plan to achieve this," she said.

Sun Microsystems, which is said to be planning its own return to the blade server market, cropped up during the question and answer session today. Execs confirmed that a new trade-in plan aimed at IBM BladeCenter customers will also be extended to Dell and Sun users. "If we can find a Dell blade or Sun customer, we will offer that also," one exec quipped.

The c-Class family of products is expected to be available in July. Pricing will be available at that time.

James Rogers, Senior Editor, Byte and Switch

Organizations mentioned in this article:

  • Brocade Communications Systems Inc. (Nasdaq: BRCD)

  • Dell Inc. (Nasdaq: DELL)

  • Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ)

  • IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM)

  • Mellanox Technologies Ltd. (Nasdaq: MLNX)

  • Pund-IT Inc.

  • Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW)

  • Voltaire Inc.0

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