Falling prices, together with improved features like virtualisation and on-demand capacity, are making blade technology more attractive to the SME market, according to IDC servers and workstation analyst, Christopher Ward.
Blades have been considered a niche technology to date, mainly gaining attention at the top end of town and within select vertical markets.
But that's all changing as SMEs become more aware of the associated efficiencies and space saving benefits.
"Blades are increasingly being packaged into smaller quantities to be more effectively consumed," Ward said. "They have many features tailored to reducing power consumption, and increasing density and virtualised workload capabilities, while maintaining current performance compared to rack products."
At the recent launch of its new c-Class range, HP announced a Blade On Demand program that Ward predicted would drive broader market uptake. It allows users to buy a rack with full server capacity but only pay for what is switched on.
"The virtualisation aspect existed in software but HP has moved this technology over to hardware, which boosts performance," he said.
While local market estimates are still conservative this year, Ward forecast one in three servers purchased would be blades by 2010. The top players are HP, IBM, Dell and Sun.
HP South Pacific enterprise product and services marketing manager, Angus Jones, said the latest blade technology addressed key customer issues including cost, consolidation, cooling, operational efficiency and productivity.
The company is rolling out reseller training sessions in a bid to educate partners on latest advancements and market opportunities.
Jones said the addition of Virtual Connect Architecture, which aims to solve network complexity challenges, let users wire systems once. They could then manage resources on the fly via virtualised Ethernet and Fibre Channel connections.
IBM is also cranking up blade activity and attracting greater interest from resellers, according to its systems and technology group brand manager for system X, Dean Janjic. The company's latest blade system, the BladeCenter H launched in February, offers power and cooling enhancements and virtualisation capabilities.
"We offer forward and backward compatibility, allowing customers to pay as they grow," Janjic said.
Citing IDC figures, he said the blade market in A/NZ was growing by 50 per cent year-on-year, compared to 10 per cent for standard Intel x86 rack servers. IBM is kicking off a national partner training campaign in Melbourne this month.