Big Blue Set To Ship AMD-Based Blade Servers

The move should solidify the vendor's already substantial lead in the blade server market, solution providers said. IBM showed off an AMD-based blade at its PartnerWorld show in early March, but the company has not confirmed it will actually ship the products. An IBM spokesman said IBM is still "investigating customer demand" for an AMD-based blade for its BladeCenter.

But solution providers familiar with the company's plans said IBM will have the blades ready to ship by June, a release that will only bolster Big Blue's current Intel-based blade server line.

"IBM is trying to differentiate itself in the blade market by offering more choices," said an IBM VAR in Florida. Armonk, N.Y.-based IBM's plans spell more bad news for Sun Microsystems, which also plans to unveil a new line of AMD Opteron-based blades in the summer, sources close to the company told CRN.

Sun is planning to introduce its new line of blades around the same time it introduces its next-generation AMD Opteron-based Galaxy server line this summer, sources said. A Sun spokesman would neither confirm nor deny the plans.

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Solution providers said even with these upcoming releases, Sun will have a difficult time making inroads into the blade market, especially since the vendor pulled its original line of blades off the market in January and currently is without a competitive product.

"I wish them well, but I don't think Sun has a chance. It's a bit too little too late," said one Sun VAR partner who requested anonymity.

"Sun is reeling," said another solution provider. The VAR, who also requested anonymity, said Sun is so far behind in the blade server market that it will be difficult--if not impossible--for it to catch up to competitors, even when the upcoming servers are available.

According to the latest figures from research firm IDC, IBM has a strong lead in the white-hot blade server market with 45.1 percent share, 10 percentage points over its nearest competitor Hewlett-Packard, which has 35.1 percent share. Dell came in a distant third with 3.3 percent share. Sun did not even make the cut and was lumped in the "others" category, which had a combined 16.6 percent share.

Vince Conroy, CTO at San Francisco-based VAR and MSP FusionStorm, said he prefers IBM's blades to HP's because of the add-on features that come with BladeCenter. "The packaging I think is cleaner and better," he said. "The management software is good, the density of the product is good, and it's well-engineered overall."