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IBM next month will add a new, lower-cost blade server chassis to its product line, hoping to attract mid-sized customers to the compact servers.

IBM has not surprisingly put the new BladeCenter chassis under its Express line of hardware and software products aimed at SMBs. These products tend to have less features than IBM's standard gear but obviously arrive with a lower price tag.

The latest blade product matches this pattern. It doesn't have a floppy disk drive, redundant management module or support for Fibre Channel-based storage like IBM's typical blade chassis It will, however, start at just $1,000 as opposed to the standard model's $2,800 starting price. Both of the chassis models hold the same actual blade servers.

Over the past two years, IBM has overtaken HP and RLX as the blade server leader. IBM and HP currently account for the vast majority of the blade market with companies such as Sun Microsystems and Dell hoping to gain share and smaller players like Egenera and RLX hoping to play in specialized segments such as financial services or life sciences.

Along with the new kit, IBM has set up some training, services and financing options to attract SMBs to the cheaper blades. Most significantly, IBM now has a five-year financing plan instead of the typical three-year plan for small- to medium-sized businesses. ®

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