IBM to offer slimmed-down blade chassis for SMBs

IBM next month will begin selling a new slimmed-down version of its BladeCenter server chassis aimed at enticing small- and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) into blade computing. The company will also begin selling five new reference architectures for BladeCenter products, with the same goal in mind.

"We want to dispel the notion that blades are only for large enterprises," director for BladeCenter alliances at IBM, Juhi Jotwani, said. She estimated that 30 per cent of IBM's blade sales come from SMBs.

The new chassis, which begins shipping November 24, will use the same blade servers as IBM's current chassis, but it will be less expensive and devoid of certain features, including a floppy disk drive, a second, redundant, management module, and support for attachment to storage area networks.

IBM will initially offer the SMB chassis at a 90-day promotional rate of approximately US$1,000, Jotwani said. Final list pricing has not yet been determined, she said.

IBM will begin offering a number of new "Business in a Box" reference architectures - documentation which contains suggestions on how best to set up and deploy the systems.

For users of its Intel-based blade servers, IBM will offer architectures centered around Microsoft or Linux operating systems, as well as SteelEye Technology's high availability software and Citrix Systems's hosted client application. Additionally, the computer vendor will announce a reference architecture for the life sciences industry that uses IBM's Power-based JS20 blades.

IBM decided against offering pre-configured bundles of its products, Jotwani said. "SMB customers just hate bundles, because they feel that one way or the other, they're paying for something they don't need," she said. "The whole point is to give the customer the reference architecture and the building blocks to implement the architecture."

The SMB chassis might be useful for customers who are comfortable without the redundancy that comes with two management modules, senior director for enterprise services with NeuStar, Jerry Chen, said.

"It can be used as an entry-level blade server that doesn't require high-availability service level agreements," he said. The $1,000 promotional pricing is "a very good price point to get into this," he added.

NeuStar, a 400-employee company that provides database services to the telecommunications industry, maintains a data centre with approximately 100 of IBM's HS20 blade servers to run internal applications as well as Web and DNS (Domain Name System) farm services, Chen said.

Though the new chassis may not be appropriate for NeuStar's customer-facing applications, which have stringent service level agreements, Chen said he would consider using them. "If I wanted to use it for an internal service, then I might go with this stripped-down version of the BladeCenter, because it will provide me with a more cost-effective solution," he said.

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