IBM's BladeServer Blitz

Says its new servers can be roasted, dropped, spat-on, 'shaken violently' - and they'll keep going

March 19, 2004

3 Min Read
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IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) yesterday launched its BladeCenter-T server in an aggressive move to expand the market for hardened data center server technology.

IBM says the BladeCenter T systems are both Network Equipment Building System 3 (NEBS 3) and European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI) compliant, meeting the needs of telecom data centers. The BladeCenter T is also hardened to withstand "high temperature, electrostatic discharge, lightning strikes, airborne contaminants, fires, and violent shaking," says IBM. [Ed. note: No mudslides? Sandstorms? Tsunamis?]

The product's resistance to violent shaking’ presumably refers to its ability to survive structural threats rather than the potential damage caused by stressed-out network managers.

So what's the gist of it? IBM's looking to expand the appeal of blade-server technology, which has made inroads in high-end data centers, as a standardized way to use inexpensive, interchangeable, PC-based technology. The hardened server equipment would appeal to both telecom firms looking for a beefed-up service platform as well as high-end enterprise data centers looking for a carrier-class platform .

Thomas Meyer, program director of European enterprise server solutions at analyst firm IDC believes it could have an appeal beyond the telecom sector.“The BladeCenter-T is supposed to be particularly physically stable, so it could even be used in fields such as oil exploration, for example, where part of a company’s IT infrastructure may be close to earthquakes or even volcanoes,” says Meyer.

Meyer said the product could also be suitable for enterprise networks seeking additional security, such as banks’ data centers.

IBM has confirmed that the blade server is available to other industries but today was at pains to emphasize the carrier-class features of the new product. IBM stressed its capability to survive the list of potential catastrophes mentioned above. [And how'bout asteroids? Hah?]

The need for robust data center systems is a very real one, particularly in an age of heightened terrorist threats. This is particularly true in the telecom sector, according to Ray Titcombe, technical director of the IBM Common Europe user group. He says, “This is in response to two-and-a-half years of heightened awareness of the risk that the telecoms sector faces and the need to have high availability and resilient systems.

“This has to be a positive move," he adds. "Anything that makes standards uniform across the data center has to be a good thing."More important to the telecom market, the move to put blade server technology into telecom data centers shows how the more inexpensive gear from standardized PC data networks is encroaching on telecom turf. This could allow the industry to benefit from standardization and PC-based applications.

Jeff Benck, vice president of of IBM eServer BladeCenter, believes that the new platform will help telecom firms reduce the time spent deploying applications. He says, "It reduces their time to deploy applications. Whether it's a new phone service or a wireless gateway, they can focus on their core competency and not spend time deploying things from scratch."

There is a potential hitch, though. The BladeCenter is not built on the Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (AdvancedTCA) platform, an open standard for building telecom gear that is gaining popularity (see AdvancedTCA Makes Headway).

Benck does not see this as a problem: "This isn't built on ACTA, but it leverages industry standard processors such as Intel and our own Power processors. I don't think that the customers that we have spoken to see this as an impediment that it's not ACTA compliant."

The new BladeCenter-T is also an attempt to win market share from IBM’s two big competitors in the blade server space, Hewlett-Packard Co. (NYSE: HPQ) and Sun Microsystems Inc. (Nasdaq: SUNW). Neither company was available for comment.Unusually, IBM mentioned both HP and Sun in its press release, which suggests that the traditionally reserved Armonk, N.Y.-based company is now pursuing a more aggressive marketing strategy. Says IDC's Meyer, “Maybe IBM feels that, as the industry is picking up again, it needs to make a stand if wants to be considered."

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

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