ServersHP Sharpens Blade Portfolio

HP Sharpens Blade Portfolio

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Nearly one year after announcing the first generation of the BL ProLiant blade server family, and sticking closely to its product road map, Hewlett-Packard Monday unveiled the third generation of its blade server line.

HP Monday unveiled the third generation of its ProLiant server blade family. SAN connectivity has been added, and a four-processor blade completes the product line.

With the addition of the HP ProLiant BL40p server, HP’s blade server portfolio has been fleshed out to span one-, two-, and four-processor systems and is complete, Hugh Jenkins, vice president of marketing for HP’s Industry Standard Server group told ServerWatch.

HP is also the first of the major blade server vendors to offer storage area network (SAN) connectivity for its dual-processor and multi-processor blades. The BL40p is designed with a PCIX slot in the blade to allow SAN connectivity; the BL20p does so with a mezzanine card.

With this release, processing power has been upped across the board. The BL20p features a 2.8-GHz Xeon processor, representing a 100 percent processing power increase over the first-generation BL20p blade released last August. The BL10e has also been given a speed bump and now boasts a 900-MHz processor.

While the BL20p has been marketed as ideal for application or client serving, video streaming, and Citrix support, and the BL10e is positioned as being best-suited for small-scale applications, firewalls, edge computing applications, and serving static Web pages, the BL40p is designed for small to midsize database applications, Jenkins said. He cited CRM, ERP, and SAP as examples of such types of applications.

All of the blades unveiled Monday use the same chassis as the previous generation, Jenkins said. The BL20p and the BL40p are compatible within the same chassis, enabling enterprises to mix and match without buying additional chassis. Future generations of the blade servers will be developed for that chassis as well, Jenkins added.

As in the past, the HP ProLiant BL blade server line is managed by the HP ProLiant Essentials, HP Insight Manager 7, and HP OpenView software.

With the product line now complete, what’s the next stop on the product road map? Primarily processor and management software updates, Jenkins said.

According to IDC’s third-quarter 2002 statistics, HP shipped 54 percent of the 9,600 blade servers purchased worldwide. Of the 24,000 units shipped in the first three quarters of the year, 55 percent are attributable to the vendor. Mark Melenovsky, a research director at IDC, told ServerWatch that while this seems impressive at first blush, HP was the first of the major hardware vendors to enter the arena, and this significant market share will not be possible to maintain as IBM, Dell, and Sun establish their presence.

Melenovsky noted that HP’s additions, while unique to the current blade market, are in synch with where the market is going. SAN support, for example, is a logical addition to blade offerings. In the future, as enterprises more widely deploy blades, they will not want to store data on the blade itself.

Melenovsky adds that the four-way offering “fills out” HP’s product line and raises the bar for what the other blade vendors will need to eventually deliver if they wish to compete with HP’s portfolio.

Ultimately, however, Melenovsky believes that the management layer, not the hardware, will differentiate the offerings.

John Madden, a senior analyst with Summit Strategies, gives HP credit for sticking so closely to its product road map but believes this is necessary given that “blades for the past year have been poised to become really competitive.” At this point only the sluggish economy is holding them back.

In the long-term, Madden sees the blades market being less about power and space savings and more of an easily managed modular environment for utility computing but not strictly focused on edge computing. He notes that this may result in some cannibalization for the major vendors, as there will be product overlap between their blade and traditional server offerings.

The BL40p, with its high performance and target market, is an example of this.

Melenovsky concurs with this potential for cannibalization and estimates that by 2006, 20 percent of the server units shipped will be blade offerings. (IDC estimates that blade offerings represented only 1 percent of servers shipped in 2002.) The increase will cut into the number of rack-mount servers sold.

The BL40p is scheduled to be available for order beginning March 11; it will be priced starting at $8,999. The BL20p will also be available at that time and will be priced starting at $3,399. The BL10e with a 900-MHz processor is already available and is priced starting at $1,859.

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