IBM launches entry-level blade box

IBM has launched its entry-level blade server chassis, as Techworld predicted last month.

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IBM has launched its entry-level blade server chassis, which it describes it as "a computing system designed to help smaller firms simplify the management of technology needed to operate a small business – from servers, to phone systems and antivirus applications". It could help SMBs save both money and energy.

IBM reckoned the new, six-slot BladeCenter S is the right size to sit on a desktop, plug into a standard mains socket, and manage storage and servers. It's designed to run in a typical office environment, said the company, and can integrate applications such as anti-virus/firewall, voice over IP, email, collaboration, back-up and recovery, and file and print.

Minimising IT admin is among of the BladeCenter S' key features, claimed IBM. It can be configured using wizards like a PC, and uses a management tool that enables easy select-and-click configuration. For businesses operating branch offices – such as retailers or financial institutions – IT administrators at headquarters can easily pre-configure hundreds of blade systems to operate in the same manner and ship them out the door knowing an office employee will be able to simply plug a system in and power it up, according to IBM.

BladeCenter product manager Scott Tease said that small to medium-sized businesses - in IBM-speak that's up to 1,000 employees - wanted the same benefits as bigger companies but at a lower price, since they usually only had one person managing the IT infrastructure.

Blade computers – which integrate servers, storage, networking and applications into one system – were initially designed to help large enterprises break from conventional methods of business computing that resulted in the proliferation of server “farms”, large IT staffs to manage them and wasted energy resources. IBM's pre-existing BladeCenter chassis can accept up to 14 blades.

The BladeCenter S can help reduce the 25 to 45 servers used by an average mid-sized company by up to 80 per cent, eliminating the need to own and operate a data centre, said IBM. Blade server vendors claim that blades help cut energy costs because they share a power supply and other components that are rarely fully utilised in tower or rack-mounted servers. They also centralise cable management, saving space and costs, as up to six or more cables per server would otherwise be required.

IBM quoted industry analyst firm Gartner saying that mid-sized businesses run 25 to 45 servers on average to power business functions, and that about 10 of those servers are typically appliances designed to perform a single or specialised set of server functions such as storage, security and Web serving.

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