IBM, HP to Joust With New Servers

by Clint Boulton

IBM began selling an AMD Opteron-based blade server, as HP plans to celebrate its 10 millionth x86 server sale.

IBM and HP have new server offerings to pump up their enterprise computing portfolios.

IBM has begun selling eServer BladeCenter servers running single- and dual-core AMD Opteron LS20 chips, according to a page on the company's Web site confirming rumors about the thin system.

IBM said the hardware will help customers boost performance on high-performance applications, such as ERP or CRM applications from Oracle or SAP. The LS20's ultra-slim design delivers high density without sacrificing server processor performance, supporting up to 84 servers in a standard rack or up to 80 blades in an 84-inch rack designed for the telco space.

The blade is hot-swappable, meaning administrators can add or change servers without disrupting the operation of others' servers in the chassis, according to IBM. The server runs operating systems Red Hat 4, SUSE Linux ES 9 Windows Server 2003 & R2, and Red Hat 3.

The blade, pre-announced in April at the AMD Opteron's second anniversary bash, is already being sold on some sites. The item is sold out on Buy.com, which is advertising it for $3,172 and on Tech Depot, which is asking $3,334 for the machine.

Sources told internetnews.com that IBM's eServer Cluster 1350 will support the LS20, making it the first cluster solution to use AMD dual-core chips in a blade.

Launched two years ago, the Cluster 1350 offers provides high performance for enterprise applications in industries spanning from financial services to life sciences. The 1350 is also the backbone of IBM's Linux Clusters, which power a good chunk of the world's fastest supercomputers.

The Cluster 1350 also allows customers to build cluster configurations based on IBM's Power chips, enabling IBM to offer corporations clusters built with Intel, AMD or Power chips, or even a system using all three architectures.

Pund-IT Research analyst Charles King said the new IBM Opteron blade will narrow that gap for general purpose server customers, and will also allow IBM to pitch its BladeCenter solutions at HPC customers.

"It also leaves IBM with the largest overall range of blade solutions; Intel, AMD, and its own Power blades," King explained. "That model also follows the company's long established strategy of offering/supporting whatever enterprise customers want.

IBM is currently king of the hill in the blade server market, garnering a gaudy 39 percent market share, according to the latest figures from researcher IDC.

Blade server sales continued to soar in the first quarter of 2005, totaling $409 million. Shipments increased by 68.2 percent and factory revenue gained 106 percent.

IBM server rival HP, meanwhile, will have its own server news next week to celebrate the shipment of its 10 millionth x86 server. As part of this announcement, HP will be introducing a new HP ProLiant server and new services for its BladeSystem servers.

HP will make the announcement at an event in its Houston manufacturing facility in a ceremony with HP executives and customer Continental Airlines, which will receive the 10 millionth server.

The event is part of a new aggressive marketing strategy to pump up HP's enterprise systems. HP is in the midst of a turnaround following Carly Fiorina's February ouster and Mark Hurd's March appointment as CEO. The Palo Alto, Calif., company had suffered some weak quarters in 2004 with regard to its server and storage sales.

Under Hurd, HP appears poised for a comeback.

Hurd, who split up the Personal Systems and Imaging and Printing groups this week, helped HP inch closer to IBM with worldwide server systems revenue of 27.6 percent compared to Big Blue's 28.3 percent share, according to IDC.

HP, which grew server sales 8.8 percent from the first quarter of 2004 to the present, also maintained its No. 1 position with 30.4 percent server shipments worldwide.

While HP continues to rave about Itanium, the vendor was able to sell enough servers based on AMD's Opteron chip to become the only top systems vendor in the 4-way x86 server space to grow revenue year-over-year, IDC found.

King said HP needs to make as much noise as possible in markets with potential growth, like blade servers.

"Can they get back on top? Not in the short term, though HP is in a pretty good spot given that the blade market is basically a two-horse race between it and IBM," King said. "At this point, though, I think the race is IBM's to lose rather than HP's to win."

This article was originally published on internetnews.com.

This article was originally published on Thursday Jun 16th 2005
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