IBM puts blade workstation in the BladeCenter chassis

IBM announces a blade workstation, available by the end of the year, which runs on desktop Intel processors and sits within the current BladeCenter chassis in the data center.

IBM will release a workstation blade for its BladeCenter chassis by the end of the year, a move that will get some of heat and real estate off the desktop, and shift it to the data center.

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Big Blue made the announcement today, though details, such as price and specifications, won't be available until June. The blades, which will work with thin-client systems from IBM partner Devon IT Inc., will run on Intel Corp. desktop processors. Tom Bradicich, vice president in IBM's systems and technology group, said it is considering an Advanced Micro Devices Inc. (AMD)-based workstation blade as well.

Bradicich acknowledged that workstation blades could cause an IT manager to have to expand the data center, but said there are benefits to managing systems centrally. He added that although it would be possible to virtualize the blades and have more than one workstation image on each one, they "likely would not see that" because of the processing resources that workstations heavy in graphics applications can consume.

Joe Clabby, president of analyst firm Clabby Analytics, said there are two main benefits to the new workstation blade: getting heat out of the workspace and managing workstations from the data center.

"Now that it's behind the glasshouse, it's easier to manage," he said. "First and foremost is, it means (the data center manager) doesn't have to dispatch people to desktops and workstations to fix them."

Clabby added that the blade server platform is ideal for a workstation because of its small form factor and relatively cheap cost. He acknowledged the move could bring in a lot of real estate and heat into the data center, something that IT managers have to make sure they can handle. But compared to how much energy a workstation can consume in an office environment, blades are relatively efficient. In office spaces stocked with workstations, "you're probably best served wearing shorts and short-sleeve shirts, and having a lot of Diet Coke."

"With this blade approach, you can put it back into a data center where it can be better controlled," he said.

IBM is targeting organizations, like financial services and CAD design companies, which use high-performance workstations in the announcement. But companies must be aware of what applications they'll run on the workstation blades, especially if the data center is not near the office.

Bradicich said the latency of pumping applications across the network "highly depends on the application." If the application is mainly text-based, like in a call center, latency won't be an issue and it's safe to put the workstation in a data center far away from end users.

"On the other end of the scale, like a CAD application, there is no tolerance for latency," he said. "We would want to keep that within the campus."

Let us know what you think about the story; e-mail: Mark Fontecchio, News Writer.

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