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Dell paddles 'blade everything' HP

Jealousy or simplicity?

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The "new" Dell apparently includes an ample helping of feistiness. The hardware maker has slung an aggressive attack against HP's blade server strategy via the corporate blog.

The latest entry in Dell's "Dear Mr. Hurd" series goes after HP's "blade everything" marketing campaign. Thanks to its c-Class blade chassis, HP has wrestled away the blade server market lead from IBM. Dell now looks determined to undermine that success, as it buys time for the release of its own, fresh blade server systems.

"We think (HP's) strategy is impractical for customers looking to reduce IT cost and complexity and aiming to take maintenance and operations to 30 per cent of the IT budget and innovation to 70 per cent," Dell said.

With those figures, Dell has thrown HP's own hopes and dreams back in its face.

"We believe a 'Blade Everything' philosophy is not in the best interest of our customers," Dell said. "In fact, we believe that applying that philosophy could actually increase IT complexity."

(For a comprehensive look at the blade market, please tune into our Semi-Coherent Computing Meat Cast with blade server inventor Chris Hipp. You'll get the skinny on the blade server market and then some.)

Dell rightly points out that all of the major blade chasses out there are proprietary. Many customers will standardize on a single blade architecture and then likely remain on that rather pricey architecture for years to come.

In addition, Dell reckons that going whole hog with blades would require many customers to add more power to their data centers should they want to do the unthinkable and actually run a rack full of blade boxes.

Dell also makes a rather weird management argument around blades, saying its existing blades are easier to install and control than HP's. We're not sure how that's meant to sway customers against buying blades, but there you have it.

Of all the Tier 1s, Dell has been the most vocal in its march against the blade server revolution.

One reason for this is that Dell has basically tried and failed at blade servers twice. HP and IBM consume about 80 per cent of the blade market. Dell has managed to take a healthy portion of the remaining 20 per cent, but it's far from being a market leader.

Sun too has struggled at the blade game, although Sun joins HP and IBM in championing blades as the future of data centers.

You can understand why the Unix server vendors would flock to blades. The systems offer some proprietary hooks that let the vendors hope they can squeeze Unix-like margins out of the x86 market.

Dell, by contrast, has always relied on selling loads and loads of two-socket servers at the lowest possible cost. It's a general purpose beast that doesn't really have the software trappings needed to profit in a massive way from platform lock-in.

To that end, Dell is probably doing customers a favor by pushing cheaper, more standardized gear instead of blades.

The vendor, however, seems to ignore the cabling and management benefits that blades do offer by sharing in-the-chassis networking. And, if HP's blades are so awful, why is Dell set to release a system that looks an awful lot like the c-Class? And why did Dell hire HP's blade strategist Rick Becker?

We'll be curious to see if Dell sticks with its blade Ba Humbug approach once its ships the new systems in the third quarter. Should the products take off, you'd expect Dell to show some more enthusiasm around them.

Or is Dell really committed to this simplicity thing? ®

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