Eye on Blades Blog: Trends in Infrastructure
Get HP BladeSystem news, upcoming event information, technology trends, and product information to stay up to date with what is happening in the world of blades.

IDC: Right numbers, wrong words

I read a clip from IDC guy Dan Harrington explaining why he thought the economic downturn crimped x86 server deployments more than Unix server deployments.  "It's easier to freeze purchases on x86 , which are a commodity at this point," he said.
 
Easier to delay x86 deployment?  Sounds right.   But x86 server = commodity?  Hardly.


Clustering was supposed to commoditize x86 servers.   Then it was utility computing.  Then virtualization.  Then the cloud. Ten years ago, I bought into the Commodity Theory.  Whitebox servers would soon be king of the data center.   x86 is x86, right?   Everyone would soon be slapping Tyan and Asus motherboards into off-the-shelf ATX chassis. 


But that's not what happened.  In fact, the percentage of people using whitebox servers has actually dropped.  A lot.  IDC still predicts more whiteboxes, but their latest full-year estimates (2008) say that whiteboxes make up about 10% of servers deployed today -- down from about 14% five years ago, and something like half of what it was a decade ago.   Server admins have actually been gravitating away from them and toward "fancy" servers from HP, IBM, and Dell. 


Why?  Well, one reason is that the price tags on an entry-level HP or Dell x86 servers have dropped a lot, to the point that assembling your own servers won't save you money.   But lowered cost != commodity.


Clustering, virtualization, and cloud computing actually do better when run on servers that have a few decidedly non-whitebox-style features:



  • OS and ISV certifications

  • Plug-ins and APIs for mainstream management tools

  • Big, knowledgeable user communities who've developed best-practices

  • Around-the-globe support, and "one throat to choke" when issues arise.

  • Automated deployment tools, power capping, and other things that lower operations costs (which can dwarf acquisition costs).


There does seem to be a growing interest in bare-bones servers.  Stuff like the ProLiant SL series and IBM's iDataPlex exemplify this trend.  But these aren't general-purpose servers, and they come with some of those key non-commodity features.

Did we miss something?

Every time a competitor introduces a new product, we can't help but notice they suddenly get very interested in what HP is blogging during the weeks prior to their announcement.  Then when the competitor announces, the story is very self-congratulatory "we've figured out what the problem is with existing server and blade architectures".  The implication being that blades volume adoption is somehow being constrained by the very thing they have and everyone else is really stupid. 


HP BladeSystem growth has hardly been constrained; with quarterly growth rates of 60% or 80% and over a million BladeSystem servers sold.  So I have to wonder if maybe we already have figured out what many customers want - save time, power, and money in an integrated infrastructure that is easy to use, simple to implement changes, and can run nearly any workload.


Someone asked me today "will your strategy change?"  I guess given the success we've had, we'll keep focusing on the big problems of customers - time, cost, change and energy. It sounds boring, it doesn't get a lot of buzz and twitter traffic, but it's why customers are moving to blade architectures. 


Our platform was built and proven in a step-by-step approach: BladeSystem c-Class, Thermal Logic, Virtual Connect, Insight Dynamics, etc.  Rather than proclaim at each step that we've solved all the industry's problems or have sparked a social movement in computing; we'll continue to focus on doing our job to provide solutions that simply work for customers and tackle their biggest business and data center issues.

Has anyone seen a Mainframe?

There is a phrase I learned while in Texas called “lipsticking a pig."  It's the art of making something out to be a lot better than it really is.


With this in mind, I was to read the prepared remarks from IBM’s latest earnings release. IBM’s Systems and Technology business declined by -20% year on year, with the System x business down -32% and Blades down -27%. IBM did provide some explanation for this year over year drop of almost one third by saying customers were moving to mainframes.



"System x server revenue declined 32 percent year to year, with blades down 27 percent. This reflects a significant slowdown in the x86 market, as customers are virtualizing and consolidating workloads into more efficient platforms such as POWER and mainframe." *

There's only one problem: the System z (Mainframes) saw a decline of -6% so somehow the numbers do not quite add up. I would like to offer an alternative view on IBM’s decline in blades business. Take a look at the chart below of blade revenue market share taken from IDC’s latest Server Tracker in CQ308 and you can make your own conclusions:    blademsharecq308

*http://www.ibm.com/investor/4q08/presentation/4q08prepared.pdf

Labels: market share

BladeSystem Supercomputers

The latest Top 500 supercomputer list just got released.  BladeSystem c-Class was well represented once again.  With 201 entries (40.2%) of the top 500, it has the most entries of any product line.  The ever popular ProLiant BL460c made up the most entries, but we also had strong showings of the BL465c and the two-in-one blade the BL2x220c, and the BL685c 4-way blade made a showing as well.  BladeSystem supercomputers are used for university and government research, weather modeling, semiconductor development, automotive, telecom, IT services, web infrastructure, financial services, rendering, and many other applications.  I'm sure Dell was excited with their new blades line as well.  Since they like to compare their blades with HP BladeSystem, I thought I would share how the two compared on the Top500 list:



  • HP BladeSystem had 199 more entries in the top 500 list than Dell's new blades

  • HP had 39.8% more share than Dell's new blades (40.2% vs. 0.4%)

  • HP had 100.5 times more entries than Dell's new blades

Dell's new blades accounted for two entries.  Congratulations Dell! 


Okay enough of these comparisons.  We're excited to see so many customers from Audi to Zeta and lots of customers in between using BladeSystem.  If you would like to see a listing of companies building supercomputers with BladeSystem, go check out the top 500 website listing and sort by vendor.

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  • More than 25 years in the IT industry developing and managing marketing programs. Focused in emerging technologies like Virtualization, cloud and big data.
  • I work within EMEA ISS Central team and a launch manager for new products and general communications manager for EMEA ISS specific information.
  • Hello! I am a social media manager for servers, so my posts will be geared towards HP server-related news & info.
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  • Luke Oda is a member of the HP's BCS Marketing team. With a primary focus on marketing programs that support HP's BCS portfolio. His interests include all things mission-critical and the continuing innovation that HP demonstrates across the globe.
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  • Greetings! I am on the HP Enterprise Group marketing team. Topics I am interested in include Converged Infrastructure, Converged Systems and Management, and HP BladeSystem.
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