Hewlett Packard (HP) has become the first major vendor to introduce a new blade server product series and the first to base it on open standards.
But analysts were cautious about sales prospects, particularly to larger companies, due to uncertainties about the proposed HP/Compaq merger.
"Although there have already been some blade server announcements from companies like RLX, this is the first using open standards," said Chris Franklin, HP's UK product marketing manager.
"It is built entirely on [Intel] Pentium III processors and uses CPCI [the new Compact PCI standard]. Over 700 companies have signed up to this standard."
He added that he expected the major markets for the product to be service providers and telcos, while large corporate internet-based data centres would also have an interest.
Total cost of ownership, including capacity within a server farm, for instance, is a driver for blade server technology.
"This announcement is in line with HP's strategy to be the infrastructure player that others will exploit," said Tony Lock, senior analyst at Bloor Research. "Had there been no merger concerns I would have expected a good take-up among bigger corporations reluctant to use products from small players."
He also said that there was concrete evidence of companies meeting the CPCI standard.
HP has created an alliance programme to help speed the delivery of new products that use the interface and prove compatibility with its blade servers.
A single 13U (22.75 inch) height chassis (called the bh7800) has 38 blade slots which will initially comprise one to two network switching blades, one to 16 server blades, one or two fibre channel storage area network blades and one to 16 storage blades of multiple types. An intelligent management blade controls the handling of the server blades.
A server blade comprises memory, cache and a central processor on a single motherboard. The network switching blades replace network cards and contain intelligence to route network traffic to and from the appropriate server blades.
Lock said that the management blade was a crucial component for a blade server system because of the large number of servers to be controlled. "The biggest factor in overall cost of ownership is management and, for this type of system with lots of small servers, it is vital," he explained.
Franklin added that the management blade communicates with HP Toptools, an SNMP-based technology for system management, and that this in turn could be plugged through to system management products such as HP OpenView.
But while a blade server is suited to sit at the edge of the enterprise, Lock said that larger systems with less processors, such as IBM's new x360, could prove better, particularly if communications bandwidth increases.
"It's horses for courses," said Franklin.
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