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The blade server market outlook for networking resellers

Successful networks revolve around the servers that carry them. All channel professionals should have an understanding of this important aspect of their customers' IT requirements and what it means to them as a tool for streamlining the administration of their customers' network. Blade expert Carrie Higbie recently took the time to answer some of's questions about the blade server market.


According to Greg Schulz, founder and senior analyst of The Storage IO Group, blade servers are growing in popularity among SMBs because of their "modularity, which allows growth and flexibility without compromising processing capabilities."

This sort of forward thinking and cost awareness is exactly what customers look for from their value-added resellers (VARs) and networking consultants. As a result, an intimate understanding of the blade server market can help a VAR or systems integrator better sell these appliances, as well as keep them up to date and running smoothly.

Carrie Higbie, global network applications market manager at The Siemon Company, recently took the time to answer some of's questions via email about the blade server market. How will the competition between HP and IBM's blade servers play out in the foreseeable future, and how will the ease of networking configurations play a role in which vendor has the competitive edge?

Carrie Higbie: Both are feature rich products. I think, personally, that the key is going to be which one has lower power consumption overall. At this point, that is IBM. They have worked to create more efficient power supplies and have built in cooling features. The IBM servers are also backwards compatible, which cannot be said for HP. IBM has not changed the core of their box from version to version. Backplane speeds are also a consideration, but either works well. As both run over Ethernet, the networking side is not a real advantage for either vendor. However, with 10GBASE-T components coming out, then that capability may change that equation based on who launches the first and lowest power-consuming version. IBM offers several connection types and numbers of network connections, which may provide an advantage in throughput for storage and networking. What are your thoughts on Sun and Hitachi blade servers? How is their blade sales program shaping up, and what will be their networking challenges?

Carrie Higbie: Overall, blade shipments account for about a quarter of all server sales in the last survey I read on This is split between IBM, HP, Dell, Sun and a few others, including Hitachi. Sun has made quite a comeback with their blade servers and things like grid computing have certainly helped. The remainder of 2007 will be a great year to see how some of the newcomers fair in this market. As for their networking challenge, and I would say this of all blade server vendors, it is going to be in the ease of administration from one platform to another. In reality, many data centers have a combination of equipment. While work is underway to have better administrative consistency across platforms, that is still a ways out. In February, HP added the Cisco MDS 9124e fabric switch, a 4Gbps, 12-port or 24-port Fibre Channel switch that plugs into HP's c-Class blade server chassis. The switch joins similar blade switches from Brocade. As Cisco and Brocade continue to compete in the switching space, what trends are shaping up? What security issues exist and what do you see moving forward?

Carrie Higbie: The switching space is certainly heating up -- not just between Cisco and Brocade, but there are many other players as well. The key is interoperability. As vendors add compatibility with storage towers, options grow exponentially. From a security standpoint, the biggest issues that I see are training and transfer of knowledge after a blade is implemented. As IT managers are taxed with just handling their day to day jobs, not all have the training needed to properly secure new technology due to lack of understanding. Also, some will run custom pieces of code to handle various tasks, which may be lost during upgrades. Disaster recovery and business continuity concerns are also not always addressed during new implementations, which can leave companies vulnerable in the event of failure or disaster. Switch shipments are increasing as customers are implementing Gigabit ethernet to the desktop and other technologies. We'll have to revisit this question in Q3 and see where things are then. It should be a very interesting year.

About the author
Carrie Higbie, Global Network Applications Market Manager, The Siemon Company. Carrie has been involved in the computing and networking industries for nearly 20 years. She has been involved in sales, executive management and consulting on a wide variety of platforms and topologies and has held director and VP positions with fortune 500 companies and consulting firms. Carrie has taught classes for Novell, Microsoft and Cisco certifications, as well as CAD/CAE, networking and programming on a collegiate level. She has worked with manufacturing firms, medical institutions, casinos, healthcare providers, cable and wireless providers and a wide variety of other industries in both networking design/implementation, project management and software development for privately held consulting firms and most recently network and software solutions.


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