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HP Unveils Server Blade Road Map

After selling more than 100,000 server blades, HP believes they soon will rival conventional servers.
Hewlett-Packard believes that server blades will rival traditional tower-and-rack systems within a few years, and on Thursday released plans to expand its portfolio to include Opteron- and Itanium-based blades.

HP has sold more than 100,000 server blades since early 2002, and more than 20,000 in the first quarter of this year. Momentum is building, says James Mouton, VP of the platform division of standard servers for HP.

"This isn't a blip that's going away," he says. "We're committed, and the industry is committed."

The company on Thursday announced availability of the ProLiant BL30p, a double-dense, two-processor blade server than will let customers double the server density in a traditional enclosure. The double-dense blades are half the size of traditional blades, allowing an enclosure that could hold eight blades to now hold 16 blades, Mouton says.

The new blades are based on Intel's Xeon processors. But Mouton says Opteron-based double-dense blades are in the works, which will provide improved heat dissipation over the Xeon blades.

Although HP had conventional servers based on both Opteron and Itanium processors, it hasn't released any blades based on those architectures. Opteron-based server blades will be introduced in the second half of this year, and Itanium-based blades will follow, although Mouton wouldn't specify a time frame.

An example of infrastructure improvements that can be associated with server blades can be found at WhiteCross Systems Ltd., a provider of business analysis regarding customer intelligence, Mouton says.

The company was able to replace 1,000 servers, with roughly 300 ProLiant BL20p blades running RedHat Linux. "The HP blade servers processed information 30 times faster than our existing proprietary systems, scanning up to 15 billion rows of data per second," said Roger Gaskell, development director of WhiteCross, in a statement.

According to Gartner research, about 56,000 server blades shipped in the first quarter, putting the segment on a course to ship about a quarter million units this year. Those numbers are small, though, when compared with the approximately 4 million conventional servers expected to be shipped this year.

"It's an emerging market, clearly," Mouton says. "But I think we've begun to pass the early-adopter stage and we're seeing the use spread out. A few years out from now, I think we'll see a good mix of blades, towers, and traditional racks almost equally."

The dual-processor ProLiant BL30p will be available in June, priced starting at $2,349. A packaged system including VMware ESX Server, Virtual Center, and HP Gold or Platinum support is now available with the ProLiant BL20p server, starting at $4,800.