HP, IBM add to blade PC market

HP launched two blade PCs using AMD chips to compete with an Intel-powered machine from IBM

Hewlett-Packard is sticking with processors from Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD) in a new family of blade PCs designed to compete with offerings from IBM.

HP announced its BladeSystem bc2000 and bc2500 products on Monday, promising to reduce IT management costs and improve data security for corporate buyers by replacing traditional desktop and notebook PCs.

Specialist blade manufacturers like ClearCube Technology and Wyse Technology also compete in this segment, as vendors see growing demand from businesses that struggle to balance security and compliance regulations with an increasingly dispersed and outsourced workforce.

The new BladeSystems are the desktop version of HP's range of remote computing products. They fit between a blade server arrangement for workers with light computing needs and a blade workstation system for engineers and stock traders.

In all three models, the user connects to a remote processor and data storage by accessing the office network with a desk-based access device such as a thin client. Since the main computing resources are located in a single, controlled data center, the corporate IT department can cut management costs by making hardware repairs and applying software patches remotely instead of visiting numerous workers at their desks.

HP is selling the bc2000 for US$1,000 per unit when a company buys 10 of the machines. Although that is up to twice the price of a traditional desktop, the IT department can pay off the difference in 12 months of operation, said Tate Davis, CCI product manager for HP's consolidated client infrastructure group.

IBM is chasing that same market with its HC10 blade and a TC10 thin client from its partner Devon IT Inc., both launched in May. IBM also targets midrange business users, but uses an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 8G bytes of memory and 60G bytes of storage.

In contrast, HP upgraded its previous blade PC -- the BladeSystem bc1500 -- by increasing the storage from 40G bytes to 80G bytes, the memory from 512M bytes to 1G byte, and the processor from an AMD Athlon 64 1500-series chip to Athlon 64 2100-series (for the bc2000) or dual-core Athlon 64 X2 (for the bc2500).

The extra power meets user demands for a blade PC capable of running Microsoft Corp.'s Windows Vista Business edition and its fast graphics handling, Davis said.

"Customers say 'If we're going to do thousands of units for a wholesale desktop replacement, we need this thing to support Vista, we need a graphics look and feel equivalent to a desktop PC, and we need a little more processing power than the bc1500, our previous generation,'" Davis said. The bc1500 ran Windows XP Professional.

HP says that power allows the bc2000 to outperform other blade computing designs, since it accesses those new processors over a dedicated link instead of through a "time-share" network where multiple users tap into a single blade computer.

"The IT department is being asked to do more than keep the trains running on time," Davis said. "They also have to help the end user comply with disaster continuity and recovery, handle outsourcing and offshore jobs, and maintain high security and compliance with the data."

The bc2000 is shipping now, with the bc2500 to follow by late July. Pricing for the bc2500 has not yet been announced.

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Ben Ames

IDG News Service
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