IBM, Intel open up blade server specs

Open specs to spur add-on development

Hoping to accelerate the acceptance of blade servers, IBM and Intel on Thursday will lay bare their jointly developed technical specifications for its BladeCenter platform that will allow developers to customize add-on products and solutions.

More specifically, the design specs help hardware developers create compatible networking switches, blade adapter cards, and appliance and communication blades for enterprise-level networks. BladeCenter, which integrates storage, servers, and networking in one box, is intended to help administrators carry out server management from one location.

"We believe that open is the right way to go because it enlarges the marketplace. We [IBM] have hit that point where the early adopters are behind us, and we want to expand that [blade server] market. And the way to do that is to allow more players into the ecosystem, thereby multiplying user's solutions," said Tim Dougherty, director of IBM eServer BladeCenter.

The two companies will reveal specifications in three areas: the system's high-speed switches including those for networks, fiber channel, and InfiniBand; the specifications for blade adapter cards; and the specification to create function specific blades.

"We have had a bunch of people come to us in the appliance side of the business wanting to create an appliance, and we haven't had a mechanism for them to go do that. Opening up these specs will allow them to build blades for firewalls, intrusion detection, and even for XML acceleration," Dougherty said.

Both companies will also open up the specification to create products and solutions for the Telcom BladeCenter product, which has many of the same core functions of BladeCenter product.

IBM and Intel will both provide the necessary paid technical support to those corporate and third-party developers through design guidelines, and hands-on from IBM's Engineering & Technology Services unit. The specifications are available with royalty-free technology and patent licenses for any IBM or Intel patents that are required.

The move on the part of IBM and Intel might prove well timed. Market researcher IDC in a report stated it believes that by 2007 blade servers will account for 25 percent of all servers being sold.

Once developers have signed the technology license agreement, that can be signed with either IBM or Intel so as to cover the intellectual property of both, they only have to go to the designated Web site to retrieve the specifications they want.

More technical information about the specifications, as well as about the licensing and service offerings, can be seen at http://www.ibm.com/servers/eserver/bladecenter/open_specs.html  or Intel's Web site at http://www.developer.intel.com/design/servers/blades.

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