HP Ditches ATCA
HP says it's extending its BladeSystem c-Class line to include carrier-class features, a move that replaces the ATCA plans the company announced in 2004. (See HP Extends BladeSystem and HP Plans ATCA Telecom Blade.)
"This is meant to chase the standalone server market where we were selling ATCA," says Christine Martino, VP of telecom platforms for HP's Business Critical Systems unit.
HP lost interest in ATCA as it became "more of a component market" where customers are meant to mix-and-match vendors' pieces, Martino says. HP would prefer to sell complete systems; moreover, it isn't so interested in non-server gear, such as ATCA-compliant media gateways, she said.
HP's move reflects ATCA's state of flux as the industry has reduced the inflated expectations of a few years ago. (See Whatever Happened to ATCA?)
Some notable players have been falling back to their more traditional businesses after deciding ATCA isn't exactly for them, says Ernie Bergstrom, an analyst with Crystal Cube Consulting .
"ATCA never was prevalent in their product lineup," Bergstrom says of HP. "If you went to their Website and looked around, it was never easy to find."
"The big surprise to me years ago was that HP started promoting ATCA for carrier-grade systems rather than competing directly with IBM's BlaceCenter-T," says Simon Stanley, Heavy Reading analyst at large. That HP is now choosing to build off its BladeSystem franchise "seems to be the best commercial strategy" for the company, he says.
Not everyone is turning their backs on ATCA. Intel Corp. (Nasdaq: INTC), for instance, sold its modular communications platforms -- its ATCA business -- to Radisys Corp. (Nasdaq: RSYS) but is pledging to produce microprocessors more suitable to ATCA's tight power budgets, Bergstrom says. (See RadiSys, Intel Deal.)
With the BladeSystem c-Class, which starts shipping in January, HP is trying hard to show it's not just an enterprise-level vendor. The boxes will be NEBS Level 3 compliant, and HP is promising each model will be available for at least three years, with a five-year support commitment after that span. That's eight years during which "the system will be available without any changes," Martino says.
That last point is crucial, because enterprise servers tend to get swapped out every three years. IT departments are accustomed to that, but telcos want something longer-lasting.
HP isn't discussing specific prices but says the c-Class will sell for the same amount as comparable enterprise-class BladeSystem gear.
As with IBM's BladeCenter, HP's approach could have some risks. Specifically, it's a single-company product line competing with the standards behind ATCA, and some customers might balk at that.
"That could happen," admits Martino. "We believe, based on conversations we've had so far, that the majority of them are ready to take that leap."
— Craig Matsumoto, West Coast Editor, Light Reading