Sharpshooter: HP Unveils SMB Blade Program

Called Blades for Business, the SMB blade battle plan includes a simplified and lower-cost HP BladeSystem enclosure as well as packaged HP services designed to speed blade implementation in new accounts. The program, which is slated to be unveiled Monday and kick off May 2, comes just one week after the IBM unit of distributor Avnet Partner Solutions revealed a plan to offer free IBM BladeCenter chassis to solution providers as an inducement for their small-business customers to adopt blade technology.

"At this point, we are not looking at that type of program," said Vince Gayman, director of worldwide SMB programs at HP, Palo Alto, Calif. "What we have done is try to reduce the complexity of blades and bring the pricing to the point where blades are a good fit for a customer who is adding or replacing [at least] five servers a year."

Rich Tear, CEO of CSCI, an HP solution provider in San Diego, said the Blades for Business program could provide new points of discussion to convince his customers to adopt blades. "When you go into the back office of these companies that have grown from 150 to 200 to 250 employees, you know it's a mess and they know it's a mess, but they don't know what to do about it," he said.

The lower-cost chassis should help overcome some of "the sticker shock of pricing," he added.

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HP also will introduce a new BladeSystem enclosure with a single rather than a dual 220-power supply. Pricing hasn't been finalized, Gayman said, but he estimated that the simplified power would reduce entry-level chassis costs by "several hundred dollars."

David Reid, president and CEO of Epic Information Solutions, an HP solution provider based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, said HP is right to address the power supply issue. "One of the problems with the SMB environment is the power supply," he said, noting that small accounts often don't have computer rooms and can't afford to rewire their business to accommodate new technology.

HP also will extend the 4 percent blade rebate it rolled out Feb. 1 for its Blade Elite partners to partners selling blade servers into SMB accounts, Gayman said.

In addition, HP Services is offering partner-sold/HP-delivered planning, implementation and ongoing service and support packages targeted at first-time blade customers. The Blades for Business initiative, which includes training, marketing and support from HP, is primarily a partner-led strategy rather than one from HP Direct. "It's not 100 percent partner-led, but 90-plus percent partner-led," Gayman said. "The [blade] customer needs someone on-site to help get started and carry on the relationship with ongoing service and support."