Intel Sharpens Blade Plan

Intel plans to ratchet up efforts to standardize technology for blade servers and widen its shipments of blade building blocks.

May 17, 2004

3 Min Read
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Seeing an apparent market shift in the server space, Intel plans to ratchet up efforts to standardize technology for blade servers and widen its shipments of blade building blocks from a narrow group of system builders to its entire channel.

The Santa Clara, Calif.-based chip maker signed new distribution deals with distributors Arrow Electronics, Avnet and Bell Microproducts to provide its blade technology, developed under the code name Hampton, to the 40,000 North American system builders.

For the past several months, Intel has been working with 40 system builders in a pilot program for the technology.

"We will make available the chassis and all the chassis infrastructure: components, power supplies, blowers, etc.," said Patrick Buddenbaum, blade server product line manager at Intel. Before the end of the year, he said, the company also intends to offer Infiniband networking technology for its blade server lineup to North American system builders.

"We have definitely stepped up our engagement with the channel," he said.More than a year ago, Intel began a technology-sharing relationship with IBM under which both vendors worked to develop standard building blocks for the ultra-dense, easily managed blade server architecture. Intel then selected about 40 system builders in North America to begin a slow rollout of its blade server components. Since then, the technology has gained wider acceptance in a variety of industries, Buddenbaum said.

"We are seeing it being deployed in a lot of different configurations," he said. "Blades are being used for compute farms, [high-performance computing] installations and, of course, the traditional enterprise. We are seeing it in small and medium-[size] businesses, and the branch-office space. We're really seeing acceptance spread across a variety of verticals."

B.J. Arun, chairman and CEO of California Digital, a Fremont, Calif.-based system builder that has been part of Intel's early blade server program, was also bullish on the Intel blade architecture.

Previously, blade solutions were built around proprietary, non-standard solutions by a variety of vendors, including IBM, Hewlett-Packard, Sun Microsystems and Dell, Arun said. Once installed, end users could only scale up or build onto existing blade systems using components from that same vendor due to compatibility issues.

"From a customer's perspective, it was negative because you got locked into one company's blade servers," Arun said. "If you wanted more, you had to go back to that company."The joint Intel-IBM effort to provide standard building blocks for blade solutions should provide an extra layer of comfort for customers who had been wary about using non-standard components in an enterprise, Arun said.

Motherboard, component and barebones system provider Supermicro has already positioned itself to take advantage of Intel's decision to aggressively push blade solutions into the North American system builder channel, said Charles Liang, chairman and CEO of the San Jose, Calif.-based company.

Liang said his company is offering a blade server design based on a 7U form factor, which supports 14 dual-processor Xeon CPUs and a redundant, 10-Gbyte backplane. Liang also said he sees the Intel-based blade solutions receiving a strong welcome in the channel.

"We have many customer commitments to adopt our blade product in their upcoming teraflow systems, as well as a handful of Fortune 500 companies' enterprise applications," Liang said.

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