A Universal Blade Chassis?

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Is a common chassis format for blade servers in the works? Word from Europe has it that top vendors, including IBM and HP, are talking about it even though the official line is that no such discussions are taking place.


Nevertheless, the U.K.'s TechWorld is quoting a mid-level executive from Fujitsu-Siemens as saying that talks over "standardization of the blade ecosystem" have been ongoing for about the past year and a half.


Such a deal would offer a great deal of flexibility to enterprises and the integrators who serve them because it would allow various vendors' systems, or even individual components, to be slotted into a single, uniform chassis.


The main question is why the top vendors would do this. Presumably, HP would have the most to lose considering its server business is on the ascent. HP's overall server sales approached 183,000 units in the third quarter (a 13 percent gain) while IBM dropped 11 percent to 92,500 units. In blades alone, HP saw a 76 percent surge, while IBM dropped by 34 percent. Dell is still the leading server supplier, but its overall sales grew only 1 percent for the quarter, while blades dropped by 27 percent.


HP already is looking beyond the enterprise with a new line of blades aimed specifically at the telecom market. It added a carrier-grade Level 3 rack to its BladeSystem server, along with a 36-72 volt power supply and support for a special Linux distribution geared toward telecom operations.


Other vendors also might have a difficult time justifying participation in a common chassis movement. Hitachi, for example, is tops in the Japanese market but barely noticed in North America. The company recently signed Arrow Enterprise Computing as a U.S. distributor, but it's hard to tell whether it would be willing to risk its base in Japan for a scheme that might or might not result in higher sales elsewhere.


Still, the idea of a common blade format is intriguing enough that it warrants at least some consideration by the key players in the blade market. After all, look what happened with PC sales once they opened up to component-level integration.