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Intel To Kill Server Blade Line

Intel is quietly killing its whitebox server blade product line as it prepares to bring out a new architecture more in line with its small and midsize business partners. Channel sources said Intel is discontinuing its entire server blade product line, and looks set to introduce a new architecture based on a rack-mount enclosure.

blade

CRN has learned from channel sources that Intel is in the process of end-of-lifing its entire server blade product line, including its Server Compute Blade SBXD132, its Server Blade Chassis SBCE, its Gigabit Ethernet switches, and other associated products.

Instead, the company looks set to introduce a new architecture based on a rack-mount enclosure, according to channel sources who saw the device at the Intel Solution Summit in March in San Diego.

The enclosure has space for up to six 1U servers which can be configured for dual-core, quad-core, and "many core" Xeon processors. The 1U servers take up about two thirds of the enclosure, with the rest of the enclosure having space for up to 14 2.5-inch SAS or six 3.5-inch SATA drives. It also includes ten Gbit Ethernet ports, the sources said.

Intel confirmed it is discontinuing its server blade product line, but would not discuss any replacement products.

David Brown, general manager of channel server products and director of marketing for Intel's Enterprise Platforms and Services division, said the decision to discontinue the server blade line, first introduced over three years, comes as Intel looks to focus on products more suitable for its small and midsize business system builder customers.

Intel's server blade line, which was developed in conjunction with IBM, was introduced as a way for Intel to see how the market would develop, Brown said. "The blade business is enjoying year-to-year growth," he said. "But the market needed time to see the direction for SMBs."

Channel sources indicate that Intel plans to stop taking orders for its server blades on August 31, with the last products expected to ship by mid-November. Brown said he was not at liberty to confirm any timetable.

Brown said Intel is working with OEMs and system builders on their transition to a new product line, which he said will probably be discussed at the Intel Developers Forum conference in September.

"We will likely augment our current product line with products aimed more at SMBs," he said. "But not necessarily blades. We are looking at several form factors to address that market."

System builders have mixed feelings about the discontinuance of Intel's server blade line.

One system builder looking at OEM projects featuring Intel's blade line said their company was disappointed for that reason. However, the system builder said, there are several low-cost alternates currently in the market, with others coming.

"The current product is more of a niche market," the system builder said. "To go to a larger market, we need a different product."

Todd Swank, director of marketing for Northern Computer Technologies, a Burnsville, Minn.-based system builder, said Intel's server blades was not a market on which his company was focused.

However, Swank said, Intel seems to be focusing on their core competency. "It's nice to see them focused," he said. "Blade servers are a pretty 'nichie' part of their business. And a complicated part of their program. From that aspect, I'm not terribly concerned they're getting out of it."

Stephen Moll, director of operations at CTL, a Portland, Ore.-based system builder, said that Intel had "scratched the surface" with CTL about its server blades, but told them to wait for a new platform.

"Since we were not really engaging them with blades, we'll wait before we get involved," Moll said.

For customers who want to continue using the server blades, Brown said they can engage with IBM instead.

"We currently are looking to transition our customers to a new line," he said. "We already have products today that address the needs of SMB, including whitebox pedestal and rack-mount servers."

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