By opening up the spec, the companies are hoping to encourage switch vendors to build products for the BladeCenter. IBM is offering the specification on a royalty-free basis through Intel's Server Systems Infrastructure organization, which makes servers for a select number of direct customers and also licenses SSI designs to third parties.
IBM and Intel have partnered in trying to build a hardware ecosystem around BladeCenter for several years. In 2004, the companies opened up specifications to the chassis and have turned to switches in the latest move. Switches are the components used to channel data to and from servers within a blade system.
"The extension of the BladeCenter switch specification to SSI advances open specifications for blade systems," Alex Yost, VP of BladeCenter, said in a statement.
IBM's partnership with Intel reflects Big Blue's strategy in competing with its major rival, Hewlett-Packard. Besides competing on technology, IBM wants to sell more BladeCenters by drawing more third-party hardware vendors into the fold. IBM and Intel in 2006 launched Blade.org, a consortium of tech organizations and developers working on open blade server platforms.
Blade servers are the fastest-growing segment of the server market. However, despite IBM's efforts around BladeCenter, blade deployments are expected to be limited over the next few years by a lack of standards and other factors, according to Gartner. Among the disadvantages of blade servers are proprietary technology and a lack of interoperability standards that tend to lock users to a vendor.
By 2012, blade servers will represent 20% of the market, up from 10% in 2007, Gartner says.