Hewlett-Packard has stolen a march on the server industry by being first to market with the new generation of super-thin 'bladed' servers, which use an existing standard in the telecommunications industry to pack numerous servers into as little space as possible.
HP's new series, codenamed PowerBar, aims to seize the leadership position in the rapidly expanding blade server market, which has seen companies attempt to cram more processing power into less floor space to meet booming Internet demands.
Research firm IDC expects blade servers to blossom in an otherwise tight server market, predicting that about 2 million blade servers worth $2,9 bn will ship by 2005.
PowerBar is the only offering in the 'ultradense' enterprise server market to be built around the open standards-based architecture of CompactPCI (cPCI) technology. HP has launched an alliance programme to help accelerate the delivery of compatible products that use cPCI.
Bladed servers stack numerous independent lower-end servers within a single cabinet, vertically like books in a bookshelf or horizontally like plates in a cupboard. HP's blade systems combine within a single cabinet several types of blades - servers, storage, appliance, network, switch and management blades.
Uses of the HP's blade systems will begin with Web page serving and extend to running encrypted virtual private network (VPN) connections, authenticating access to networks, screening out intruders, and accelerating encrypted secure e-commerce transactions and e-mail.
The server is aimed at large enterprises, service providers and telcos for applications connecting the network to the Internet, including Web caching, firewalls and load-balancing. HP will also soon offer network switches, hot-swappable disk drives, storage and management blades.
Kevin Barnard, regional programme manager for Unix servers at HP SA, says HP is counting on its ability to demonstrate a viable use for blade servers at the network gateway to the Internet as its edge in the blade server market.
"Blade servers represent a very good revenue opportunity as IT managers start to look to consolidate server resources in a single, easy-to-manage rack. We will start shipping blade servers in December 2001, at the same time as they become available in Europe," says Barnard.
The HP blade servers are based on a Pentium III CPU and 440GX chipset to connect the CPU to memory and other subsystems. Dual-processor models using the newer 'Tualatin' line from Intel or systems using HP's PA-RISC chip will arrive next year, and in 2003, blades with two servers on a single board and Itanium servers will ship.
The HP range is based on the Linux operating system: lightweight, with low memory requirements and using CPU power efficiently, it is an ideal operating system for blade servers, which require flexibility and scalability in constrained environments because of heat restrictions. The Linux operating system already runs 30% of Internet Web servers and 61% of boundary servers.
The entire product range will be supported by HP's service offerings that reduce the systems management burden. Tools like HP OpenView, MC/ServiceGuard and HP Toptools integrate monitoring and control across all compute, storage, software and network infrastructure resources.
HP will provide a choice of Linux distributions, including Red Hat, SuSE and Debian immediately, with other distributions following in the second half of 2002. HP is introducing blades that support the Microsoft and HP-UX operating systems from December 2002.