IBM And Intel To Open Access To BladeCenter Specs

The move will make it easier for third-party hardware and software providers to create BladeCenter-compatible products, giving the server-blade market a boost.

September 2, 2004

3 Min Read
Network Computing logo

IBM and Intel on Thursday will announce what they're calling the first "open" server system by providing open access to the design specifications of the IBM BladeCenter system created by the two companies.

By providing access to the specifications, third-party hardware and software providers will be able to more easily create BladeCenter-compatible products, which will help accelerate growth of the already-fast-growing segment of the server market, says Jeff Benck, VP of the BladeCenter product line for IBM.

"We think this is going to change the shape of the industry, as we work at the forefront of the server space with an emerging technology where we can set the industry agenda," Benck says.

Krish Ramakrishnan, president and CEO of Topspin Communications Inc., a manufacturer of server-virtualization products, says the opening of the BladeCenter specification can help create a whole new market for server-blade products and services.

"In the automotive industry, there's a huge aftermarket, and this is the equivalent," he says. "By opening up the specification and making it royalty-free, it makes it very easy to do business and create products around the platform. They money we would have spent with lawyers we can now invest in our product."IBM's chief competitor in the blade market, Hewlett-Packard, says it doesn't believe that IBM's simply opening up its specification will lead to a new standard in the market.

"This is a specification they've been trying for a year to sell without a whole lot of success," says Rick Becker, general manager of VP of blade systems at HP. "You can't create an industry standard from one company. Standards must come from a standards board with support of the industry and looking for long-term product stability."

Becker says HP seeks to work with best-of-breed vendors in all key technology areas, including switches and storage, and seeks to ensure that any system to be used with its blade products will work from an integration perspective. "With the model IBM just announced, I don't know where the customer will go when something goes wrong," he says.

IBM and HP are engaged in a heated battle for supremacy in the blade-server market. HP was the first major vendor to enter the blade market in 2001; in 2003, it led IBM in worldwide market share 39% to 31%, according to Gartner. But this year, IBM has taken the lead, according to IDC, accounting for nearly 44% of shipments in the second quarter, with HP at around 32%.

Overall, Gartner sees blade-server unit shipments growing at a compound annual growth rate of more than 30% over the next five years. IBM says server blades have been the fastest-growing server technology in the history of the company.Benck says IBM's decision to release the BladeCenter specification was in response to requests by vendors and customers. "They continue to ask for more flexibility and more alternatives in a bladed form factor," he says. "Opening up the specification will not only drive innovation, but will continue our momentum in the market."

Benck says he expects to see new varieties of Ethernet and Fibre Channel switches, as well as specialized blades for areas such as the telecommunications industry. "The intent and focus here in not to necessarily enable substitute solutions for products that IBM and Intel already have in the market, but to drive innovation and new solutions that complement the set offerings already on the market," he says.

Over the past two years, IBM and Intel have shared development resources to create specific products for the BladeCenter line, Benck says. In the past, IBM has developed the two-way blade and general blade chassis, while Intel has led development of the four-way blade and a specialized chassis for the telecommunications market.

Stay informed! Sign up to get expert advice and insight delivered direct to your inbox

You May Also Like

More Insights