OEM and systems integrator, Hallmark Computer International, is aiming to take a slice of the Australian server market with the introduction of locally produced Intel-based blade servers.
Similar to rack mount or pedestal servers, multiple blade servers slot into a single chassis to share network access, storage and console facilities. Unlike their predecessors, the blade chassis also provides access to a common power supply, cooler, external network interface, hard drives bays, CD-ROM, floppy drive, keyboard/mouse ports or VGA port.
Since their introduction by IBM, blade servers have traditionally sold into high level corporate customers and government. According to technology research group, IDC, blades currently account for only 3 per cent of total global server sales. However, IDC suggests the market is on the verge of dramatic growth, with blade servers expected to account for 29 per cent of server sales by 2008.
According to market pundits there are ample indications the blade market in Australia is getting over the early adopter hump, and about to experience a growth spurt. In preparation, IBM and HP are renewing their focus on blade technology, and Intel is in the throws of training local OEMs in blade manufacture.
This is good news for the channel because up until now the blade market has been dominated by direct sales and service arrangements effectively closing out resellers.
"Its still early days for blades in the channel but we have been working with several systems builders in this area, offering training and support. Similar to Intel Itanium based whitebox servers we see this as an emerging opportunity for those system builders with the capabilities and desire to sell to enterprise customers," an Intel spokesperson said.
Chief technology officer with Hallmark Computers International, Phillip McIntosh, said the participation of whitebox vendors and increased competition in the area will ensure resellers have more flexibility to trade in blade technology.
"HP and IBM are putting a lot of resources into the blade market," he said. "But they are generally bundled with professional services, so that the channel sells the product but looses the relationship with the customer. We are looking for resellers who can do their own service and support for blade systems, so they don't loose that relationship with their customers."
While he concedes that the traditional whitebox customer base hasn't bought into blade technology at this stage he points to a number of factors which might influence growth in this area.
"A lot of customers are in the process of upgrading their servers, now that buying cycles appear to be starting again. If they are looking for anywhere from 6-10 servers in one go, then it will make sense for them to swap over to blade technology," McIntosh said.
McIntosh claimed the greatest hurdle the channel needs to overcome is the notion that blade technology is complex, and limited to high-end customers.
"So long as they can get their heads around what a blade server is there are opportunities for resellers," McIntosh said. "Whether it's for an ISP, or an organisation running a Citrix farm, a blade approach offers more computing power per square foot, easier manageability, reduces power consumption and produces less heat."