Hewlett-Packard (HP) intends to "blade everything" with its next-generation blade server architecture - and plans to offer IBM blade users incentives to switch.

The HP BladeSystem c-Class box has features designed to ease data center challenges such as systems management and power and cooling. It replaces the company's existing BladeSystem p-Class, which HP said it will support until 2012.

HP claims the new blade system can give a 46 percent saving, on purchase, installation and facilities costs, over HP's rack-mounted systems. The new 17-inch box, which supports server, storage and client blades, is the foundation of HP's new strategy to "blade everything," said Ann Livermore, executive vice president of HP's technology solutions group.

On the management side, HP has integrated its Insight Control Management software with the BladeSystem infrastructure to help administrators manage physical and virtual servers, storage, networking, and power and cooling through a single console. The software aims to simplify provisioning, recovery, patching and migration between physical and virtual servers.

HP has added what it calls an "onboard administrator" - a 2-inch LCD screen for visual troubleshooting and diagnosis. On the screen, administrators can view the status of I/O connections, power and cooling levels and system configurations. HP says the new screen was adapted from technology it uses on its printers to allow users to control peripheral settings and fix paper jams.

Since the c-Class replaces HP's p-Class, current blade servers won't fit in the new enclosure. But analysts say the benefits of the new chassis should outweigh any drawbacks of backward incompatibility.

"The lack of back compatibility does make for a little messiness - and work on the part of HP - during the transition, but this is actually a pretty reasonable point to roll out a new chassis if you feel you need one," says Gordon Haff, an analyst at Illuminata. "The blade market is growing rapidly, but the installed base is still relatively small, so making the shift sooner, rather than later, makes sense."

No enterprise data-centre technology launch these days is complete without mention of virtualisation, and HP's new architecture also includes a new Virtual Connect module to allow administrators to set up connections to servers and virtual machines at the outset and then change connections without rewiring.

To help address power and cooling challenges, HP has added new technology to monitor air temperature, heat, and power usage at the component, system and rack levels as well as a new cooling fan it says reduces server airflow and energy consumption when compared with traditional fans.

The new BladeSystem is expected to ship in July. Pricing is not yet available.

At the launch event, HP executives took several swipes at IBM's blade server offerings and announced plans to offer customers incentives to switch to from IBM to HP blades. HP and IBM together own the majority of the blade-server market, which market research firm IDC expects to grow from about US$2 billion in 2005 to $10 billion by 2009.

Venture capital firm Walden International is investing up to $100 million over the next five years into technologies for IBM's BladeCenter system, particularly in the Asia-Pacific region.

And earlier this year, IBM rolled out a new BladeCenter chassis and several blade servers, including a blade based on the Cell processor IBM is developing with Sony and Toshiba for Sony's PlayStation game console. IBM is aiming the Cell processor-based blade at computation-intensive workloads and broadband-media applications. The company believes it will have the greatest impact for applications that involve streaming data or image manipulation in such industries as medical imaging and life sciences.

Jennifer Mears, Network World contributed to this story.