Enterprise infrastructure in no longer the sole domain of large corporates. Small to medium sized businesses (SMBs) have growing demands of their own when it comes to networking, compliance, storage and servers, and they`re demanding enterprise-class technology. HP and IBM are hoping to capitalise on this trend with new offerings that make blade server technology more accessible to the mid-market.
Conventional wisdom said that if you had less than seven servers, you didn`t need blade infrastructure. Blades, it seemed, were not a feasible option for SMBs, much to the dismay of vendors like HP and IBM, both of which carry a strong focus on that market sector. In an ongoing effort to find new ways of packaging enterprise-class technology for smaller players in the market, however, both companies have come up with blade infrastructure offerings that attempt to make blades more affordable.
In June, IBM announced an extension of its new BladeCentre S chassis, aimed at the mid-market, but also as a solution for larger enterprises needing “store-in-a-box” type solutions.
HP and IBM are attacking the mid-market with blade offerings that promise value for SMBs.
Bevan Lock from IBM South Africa`s systems and technology group says that the smaller chassis now sports built-in storage. “Enterprise customers often already have centralised network storage,” he says. “With this chassis, IBM aims to provide a single environment for management, network, operating system and storage with wizard-based configuration to make it quick and easy for SMBs to take advantage of blade technology.”
Although this particular solution is not yet shipping, Lock says that IBM has received a large amount of interest from potential customers. It is expected to appeal to larger enterprises with remote sites, as they can potentially provide a single chassis with storage, network, administration and operating platform infrastructure, which can be pre-configured and then simply dropped on location.
How much cheaper is this solution, really? Lock says the base chassis will cost a reasonable R20 000. “The real savings come from the fact that storage is included and you don`t need an external SAN solution, for example,” he adds.
The chassis also includes all the required power infrastructure and cabling. IBM also runs blade.org, a resource dedicated to the community of blade users and developers, where ideas can be exchanged, information accessed and where blueprints for blade-based solutions are on offer.
The most recent announcement came from HP, which has unveiled a solution it calls ‘Shorty`, but which is more often referred to in civilised conversation as the c3000 blade enclosure. HP`s offering has been designed as an enclosure for “smaller technology sites, branch offices and remote locations”, the company says. The c3000 requires no special power, cooling or specialised skills as its setup and networking infrastructure is built into the enclosure, making it an appealing blade solution for SMBs as well as larger enterprises looking for a scaled solution for remote sites or branches.
HP simultaneously announced the introduction of the HP StorageWorks all-in-one storage blade, perhaps as a reaction to IBM`s inclusion of storage infrastructure in its blade chassis. The Shorty does not offer included storage, but the StorageWorks blade from HP makes it easy to add it in.
“Mid-sized customers don`t want watered-down enterprise solutions,” says Yergen Govender, enterprise storage and server business unit manager for HP. “They want complete solutions built uniquely to address their needs.”
And this is what HP claims to be offering: an enterprise-class blade solution, scaled for mid-market use.
Govender says that pricing for the c3000 starts at R29 000 and fits up to eight blades.
Selecting a blade vendor seems to be a combination of personal choice, application requirements and pricing. The plus point is that at least now small to medium sized businesses are presented with blade infrastructure that fits their needs, even if the choice of vendor is not an easy one.