Dell calls for blade server standards

Michael Dell, chief executive of the PC giant, takes the stage at the OracleWorld trade show, rallying for "a common blade architecture."

SAN FRANCISCO--Dell is in talks with other PC makers in an effort to set standards for so-called blade servers, the company's CEO said Monday.

"There should be a common blade architecture," CEO Michael Dell said in a keynote speech at the OracleWorld trade show here. "If we are successful, and I am reasonably optimistic we will be...I think you will see a high-volume market for these blades."

However, Dell said the transition from traditional servers to blades will not happen overnight. "I think it is going to take awhile," he said.

Dell used crutches to get onstage after breaking his ankle recently when a horse he was riding fell.

"Contrary to what I may look like today, we've never been on more solid footing as a company," he said.

Getting a Dell-sponsored blade initiative off the ground, though, could be tough. IBM and Intel have already formed an alliance to standardize the construction of blade servers.

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Michael Dell, CEO, Dell
Furthermore, Dell has been somewhat reluctant when it comes to blades. The company came out with its first blades last November and has said that demand in the overall market for blades hasn't been robust.

"We haven't abandoned blades, but demand isn't as strong as once perceived," Reza Rooholamini, a director in Dell's enterprise systems group, said in an interview in August.

Still, blades could dovetail nicely into Dell's clustering effort. The company has abandoned a project to come out with an eight-processor server and instead will concentrate on two- and four-processor servers, the kind of machines that are at the heart of blade racks. Some companies, such as RLX Technologies, specialize in bladed clusters.

In August, IBM launched its " Dell on Ice " program to woo blade server consumers and other customers from Dell. Big Blue is devoting a team of hundreds of sales and technical resources staff to the campaign, according to Jeff Benck, director of xSeries product marketing at IBM. The program runs through the end of the year and is available to Dell customers who aren't IBM customers.

Dell in his keynote speech likened the current status of blades to the pre-Internet period in which computers were networked together using a variety of competing technologies, such as Ethernet and Token Ring. Only when Ethernet became ubiquitous, did the Internet, and computer networking in general, take off, Dell said.

Dell declined to say which businesses the company is talking to about blades or which components it is seeking to standardize.

Asked about the overall technology spending environment, Dell said that his company's business has held up quite well but that overall growth has been slight, though there has been spending growth over the last four quarters.

"What happens in the second half is likely to continue to be moderate growth," Dell said in a question-and-answer session with reporters.

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