Intel Inside a White Box Blade System

The release could give VARs and resellers something to compete with IBM and HP's offerings.

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. – PC customers seeking choice can get a brand name PC, such as a Dell or HP computer, or can go to a system builder that makes a machine out of standard parts. These stores have long been known as "the white box market," or less politely as "screwdriver shops," since the computer is built on premises.

Those custom built shops have served the small business market adequately for individual desktop and low-end server PCs, but there was never an option if a customer wanted a blade solution. For that, you had to go to the big name companies, such as HP with its c3000, a.k.a. "Shorty," or IBM's BladeCenter S.

Well, Intel hopes to change that with Clear Bay, a modular, all-in-one blade system design that looks just like Shorty or the BladeCenter S but made from standard parts that a reseller can build for their customers.

The Clear Bay server is based on the Modular Server Specification announced by Intel last July. It sets up a standard for blade server parts, such as compute blades, storage blades, backup blades, chassis design, power supplies and heat sinks.

Clear Bay is a 6U-high blade chassis that can support up to six two-socket Xeon server nodes, 14 2.5-inch serial-attached SCSI (SAS) hard disks, two storage-control modules, a management module and two Ethernet switch modules.

Intel believes offering a white box solution to the blade system market will help grow it, even more so than the $19.8 billion for SMB server spending this year as projected by Access Markets International Partners. "A lot of SMBs haven't considered upgrading their systems to baldes. There's a lot of unfulfilled potential out there," said David Brown, general manager of Intel's channel server marketing group at a briefing here.

The resellers assembled with Intel were even more enthusiastic. "This allows companies like us to compete on equal terms with companies a lot larger than us," said Joe Toste, vice president of sales and marketing for Equus Computer Systems, which sells systems to resellers around the country. "We expect many more server customers will be able to go after a larger marketplace now that they have this option for customers."

In addition to the hardware, the Clear Bay systems are fully manageable via a Web interface, so the administrator doesn't even need to be present with the hardware to manage it. Through a Web interface, servers can be brought online, taken offline, hard drives assigned to a specific server and specific applications assigned to a server.

Pricing for servers based on the Clear Bay platform will be roughly $7,200 for a basic configuration, and when fully loaded, will run around $32,000.

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