IDC: Blades on the backburner

Hewlett-Packard's release of its first blade server last week may see the kick off of a new server generation, but according to research firm IDC, it will be a delayed shift -- predicting blade servers won't take off until 2003.

The technology of the blade server doesn't seem to be in question; it is simply a matter of timing, with the worldwide server market in the middle of a significant downturn. IDC reported that over the last 12 months server sales have dropped by 17 per cent.

IDC analyst Tom Minarik says companies have slowed their purchase of servers because of the current state of the economy.

"The focus of businesses has moved away from expanding capacity to leveraging existing infrastructure in order to streamline business processes, and so there is less emphasis on hardware spending and more on software and services," Minarik said.

Nevertheless, HP decided to release its series of blade servers this year, making it well ahead of competitors such as Sun, Compaq, and Dell.

HP's bc1100 blade server will ship in volume in January. The blades are designed to plug into an industry standard CompactPCI bus and pack 38 to a 13U-high chassis. The 1U (1.75 inches or 44.5 millimetres) is a standard measure of height in 19-inch-wide rack-mounted server systems.

While IDC is forecasting the worldwide server blade market to be worth about $US3.5 billion by 2005, it isn't expecting the blade servers to make an extreme impact until early 2003.

"As with every new technology, vendors will primarily sell to the early adopters. In Australia early adopters tend to be telecommunications and financial institutions as well as smaller, IT-savvy xSPs," Minarik said. "It will take some time for the general market to see the value of server blades. If anything, the depressed market conditions will draw out the time between early adopters utilising the technology and general end-user acceptance."

Alok Kapila, marketing manager of enterprise systems at HP Australia, said the blade server suits any industry that performs a lot of work over the Internet, saying the key benefits of upgrading to a blade server are the density (lots of servers), which gives greater performance through vertical scaling, a reduction of power consumption and space, and improved manageability.

Regardless of the slow start, Kapila is confident of the future of blade servers. "We will move away from thin box servers and to blade computing - blade servers are the new big thing," he said.

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