The blade server market and how HP leads it

The blade server market is steadily expanding as companies move away from traditional rack-mounted servers and look to blades to address their business flexibility and changing technology needs.

This HP whitepaper looks at the state of the blade server market and how its new server management system HP OneView can serve that market.

A blade server is a stripped down server computer with a modular design optimised to minimise the use of physical space and energy. Blade servers have a number of components removed to save on space, minimise power consumption and allow cost effective modular expansion.

A blade enclosure, which can hold multiple blade servers, provides services to all the blades contained within it, such as power, cooling, networking, various interconnects and server management. Together, blades and the blade enclosure form a cost-effective blade system, by providing powerful computing power using shared services.

Market analysis

With such business and cost advantages, it is no surprise that the state of the blade server market is sitting pretty, with blades overall taking a steadily increasing share of the overall global server market. In February 2014, industry analyst IDC reported that blade market share from the total server market, as of the fourth quarter of 2013, stood at 17 per cent - $2.4bn (£1.5bn) in quarterly sales.

HP maintained its number one position in the blade server market in 4Q13 with a 44 per cent market share, ahead of Cisco (which entered the blade market in 2009) which took a 20.5 per cent market share. When the blade server market first took off, HP used to battle with IBM for supremacy, but Big Blue was well behind in third place with 19.5 per cent of the market at the end of 2013.

Analyst Gartner reports similar blade server market share figures. Gartner says, "HP is maintaining volume blade market leadership, with a market share roughly equal to the combined share of the next four vendors of Cisco, IBM, Dell and Oracle."

By the second quarter of 2014, IDC again reported (in August 2014) overall increased blade server sales, with HP holding 42 per cent of the market, Cisco increasing its share to 25 per cent, and IBM falling to 14 per cent, as other smaller and newer players in the market gained some traction.

IDC analyst Jed Scaramella says, “Modular servers – blades and density-optimised servers (which are used by large cloud players like Amazon and Google, for instance) – represent distinct segments of growth for vendors in an otherwise mature server market.”

He says, “As the building block for integrated systems, blade servers will continue to drive enterprise customers along the evolutionary path toward private clouds."

It is also expected that the blade server market will be given a further kick-start with Microsoft's announcement that it is ending support for Windows Server 2003, and the recent launch of Intel's Grantley Xeon EP processor.

As for server management, IDC analyst Matt Eastwood says, “Resource-strapped organisations today are looking for infrastructure management platforms that will unchain them from spending countless hours on mundane, administrative tasks to focus more on innovation.

“The market is primed and ready for an infrastructure management platform that is more intuitive and built for the needs of IT today, not the days gone by.”

HP OneView

As for HP, it is ready to address these needs. Analyst Gartner says, "HP is building on strong investment in management tools that already enable a single point of management across physical and virtual infrastructures - and across blade- and rack-based servers - with plans to extend this to common tools across compute, storage and networking."

Which is a major reason why HP has launched HP OneView. HP says the new infrastructure management platform will allow IT teams to dramatically improve operations, while reducing costs and manual errors that cause downtime.

The proliferation of as-a-service technology, an influx of tech-savvy workers and an increase in business complexity is widening the gap between business demand and traditional IT supply, in addition to organisations struggling to deliver and manage IT using outdated management tools.

To develop HP OneView, HP collaborated with more than 150 leading customers worldwide over four years to understand the drivers of cost, inefficiencies and delays around the most common infrastructure management tasks, processes and steps.

HP OneView is designed for the HP BladeSystem, and the expanding range of HP ProLiant servers. It improves the productivity of IT administrators with the help of an intuitive user interface and automated intelligence that simplifies common tasks.

The most common data centre processes, such as deployment, updating, migrating and troubleshooting can be reduced from hours or days to just minutes. For instance, says HP, provisioning hypervisors across 16 servers with traditional tools can take two hours and 50 minutes of administrative time. But with OneView it can take just 14 minutes, says the blade supplier.

“Social media, the consumerisation of IT and changing demographics are altering how work gets done, forcing organisations to address a widening gap between enterprise demands and traditional IT supply,” says Tom Joyce, senior vice president and general manager of Converged Systems at HP.

“The current infrastructure management model is stuck in the past and HP OneView is the first step in fundamentally rethinking the entire approach to infrastructure management in the data centre,” says Joyce.

Visit the HP website for more information on HP blade servers and HP OneView.