HP Expands Virtualization Focus for Blades

HP aims to cut competitors down to size with new virtualization blades

September 5, 2008

3 Min Read
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Though it is only one part of HPs new or improved virtualization portfolio, the Proliant BL495c virtualization blade also hones the company’s broader “Blades Everywhere” strategy, which aims to deliver discreet or unique blade server solutions for virtually every business need. This prompts a question: Are blades optimum solutions for every business or IT problem, or are they simply one technology among many that can provide businesses the server performance they require?

Technologically, the BL495c is an interesting beast. Like other virtualization-specific server solutions, such as Dell’s PowerEdge R805 and R905, the new HP box leverages quad core AMD Opteron processors to maximize energy-efficient performance, as well as greatly expanded memory and networking capabilities (up to 128 GB in 16 slots and 8 NICS per BL495c blade) to help reduce or overcome bottlenecks commonly encountered by companies utilizing virtualization to consolidate data center resources.

But though the BL495c’s features map well against competing solutions HP has made its virtualization-specific servers a blade-specific play. This brings up an interesting conundrum -- whether businesses leveraging or considering how best to maximize virtualization performance are best served blade architectures.

HP and many other blade proponents would likely argue that their compact form factor, heightened density, integrated networking, and other features make blades the best of all possible solutions for this particular problem.

But to our way of thinking, providing, and maintaining customer choice is a critical issue for vendors to weigh in crafting products and go-to-market strategies. In the case of blades vs. rack-mounted servers, this is not a matter of replacing a doddering, deeply outmoded technology with one that is clearly superior. While blades offer users a number of significant technological and business benefits, their form factor remains their biggest differentiator for many customers, a point illuminated by the fact that while blade sales continue to grow, they are a fraction of those racked up by rack-mounted servers.To be fair, HP’s virtualization strategy is anything but a one-trick pony. The Proliant BL495c is merely one virtualization-focused solution among many that the company is offering to help customers simplify and optimize essential processes and gain maximum returns from their IT investments. But HP’s recent market study, in which only one third of respondents recognized the business value of virtualization, gives us some pause.

With so much obvious work and market education ahead, coupling its virtualization efforts to a highly focused “Blades Everywhere” strategy could lead the company straight to nowhere with many customers.

— Charles King, Pund-IT president and principal analyst, focuses on business technology evolution and interpreting the effects these changes will have on vendors, their customers, and the greater IT marketplace. Charles began working in Silicon Valley in the early 1990s writing on technical, business, and strategy issues, then became an IT industry analyst in 1998. Since founding Pund-IT in December 2004, Charles has published the Pund-IT Weekly Review, which contains this blog and additional industry analysis. King has also produced numerous client projects, and has been quoted in a wide variety of IT industry and media outlets.

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