HP Plans ATCA Telecom Blade

HP is putting its faith in an emerging ATCA standard for the launch of its first telecom blade server next year

October 8, 2004

3 Min Read
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Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) is set to finally make its entry into the market for telecom blade servers, following months of speculation about the company's long-term strategy (see 64-Bit Blades Battle and HP Launches Blade, Telecom Program).

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based firm today announced plans to launch an Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC) processor-based, telecom-specific blade server next year. At this stage, HP is unwilling to set a specific date for the birth of the new blade, although a spokeswoman confirmed to NDCF that it will be available in both 32- and 64-bit configurations.

But archrival IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has already established a presence in this part of the market, launching its BladeCenter-T product back in March. Since then, the company has also unveiled a package of pre-bundled blade server software and set out to attract new partners (see IBM's BladeServer Blitz, IBM Flashes Its Blade, and IBM & Motorola Brandish Blades).

However, HP hopes to steal a march on its rival by basing its yet-to-be-named blade on the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA), an emerging industry standard. IBM, on the other hand, has taken its own approach by encouraging equipment vendors to conform to the BladeCenter-T's underlying architecture. This includes networking switches, adapter cards, and communications blades for enterprise networks (see IBM, Intel Open BladeCenter Specs).

An IBM spokeswoman told NDCF earlier today that AdvancedTCA "is just one way" to tackle the many demands of the telecom industry and promised that the hardware giant will be making some significant blade server announcements of its own in the near future.Although still in its infancy, AdvancedTCA or ATCA – is expected to provide a standardized platform architecture for carrier-grade applications, with support for standards such as the Network Equipment Building System (NEBS) and the European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI).

Elisabeth Rainge, director at analyst firm IDC, believes that ATCA will be a key standard in the future, although she admits that there is still plenty of water to go under that bridge. "The standard is still maturing, but it's going to be very important," she said. "HP is basically saying to network equipment companies, 'We will get you closer to your carriers.' "

But this doesn't necessarily mean that IBM has backed the wrong horse, according to Rainge. "It's unrealistic to think that AdvancedTCA will impact products that are mature and already deployed – the BladeCenter-T is already well aligned with things like VOIP."

There is another factor in this equation – processor giant Intel is one of the main champions of AdvancedTCA, something which could eventually draw IBM closer to the standard. Tucked away at the bottom of last month's announcement about the BladeCenter's open specifications was a line about how the platform will complement AdvancedTCA. Thus it appears that IBM is hedging its bets.

However, one thing that both HP and IBM have in common is their desire to steal telecom industry market share from rival Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW), which already offers a range of NEBS-compliant servers. "Both companies are aiming to capitalize on what has been a real stronghold for Sun," said Rainge.Today's blade server announcement from HP forms part of a broader strategy dubbed the Advanced Open Telecom Platform, which targets network providers with a range of hardware, software, and services.

— James Rogers, Site Editor, Next-gen Data Center Forum

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