Competition remains fierce in blade servers, with perennial leaders IBM Corp. and Hewlett-Packard Co. again topping the list.
Alex Yost, vice president of IBM's blade group, said he saw customers first begin to adopt blades about five years ago. "Customers were looking for servers that were more compact and integrated and could give them more computing power per square foot," he said.
Now IBM is focusing on new offerings as its customer's needs have matured.
"We've seen the focus shifting, with a lot of emphasis on total cost of ownership," he said. "Customers are looking at how they can simplify the ownership and management experience. Many of these customers are running a data center type environment, using a lot of servers and so anything we can do to simplify this benefits them; they can do more with their existing stuff, and take into consideration the dollar and cents element."
Said Jay Tipton, vice president and owner of Fort Wayne, Indiana-based Technology Specialists:"It boils down to the fact the IBM has not changed its blade server connection since inception. If you need to upgrade the chassis, if you want it bigger, better, faster, they can do it without a huge amount of disruption."
For its part, HP' s Jim Ganthier, director of marketing for BladeSystem, said the company is focusing on ways for partners to capture new opportunities. He pointed to HP's first blade enclosure for midsize businesses—Shorty, or the HP BladeSystem c3000.
"Shorty was built with the channel in mind because midsize customers rely heavily on their local resellers," Ganthier said. "Along with Shorty, we introduced HP BladeSystem Solution Blocks, which allows our channel partners to quickly configure and deliver multiple applications on Shorty."
Dave Butler, president and CEO of Enterprise Computer Solutions, Mission Viejo, Calif.,said his company has experienced four years of year-over-year growth thanks in large part to HP's blades.
"What HP did that I believe is an extremely strong proposition for the reseller community is that they recognize our efforts, they offer the right kind of programs to reward the channel partners who have dedicated engineering resources, training and made an investment in blades," he said. "I think HP's done their part to honor investment with value—not in a volume base, but a value based-proposition to the channel."
As a reseller, Butler points out that from a customer's perspective, blades are not a commodity, but rather, a sophisticated technology that requires consultative presells and implementation services.
In rewarding those efforts, Butler said HP's channel programs are solid.
"You get pricing that isn't given to multiple resellers," he said. "In the volume space, many resellers can get the same price," he said. "The bad news is you can create the demand in volume products and not with the business, where in the value space, which has been the enterprise product space, HP recognizes the effort to create the demand around the product and they go to the table with the partner who has generated that demand."