IBM will be selling a new slimmed-down version of its BladeCenter server chassis from next month, aimed at attracting small and medium-sized businesses. Five new deployment guides for BladeCenter products will also be released onto the market, with the same goal in mind.

"We want to dispel the notion that blades are only for large enterprises," said Juhi Jotwani, director for BladeCenter alliances at IBM. She estimated that 30 percent of IBM's blade sales come from small and medium businesses.

The new chassis, which begins shipping on 24 November, will use the same blade servers as IBM's current chassis, but will be less expensive and come without certain features: a floppy disk drive; a second, redundant, management module; and support for attachment to storage area networks.

IBM will offer the SMB chassis at a 90-day promotional rate of approximately $1,000, Jotwani said. Final list pricing has not yet been determined, she said.

As of Friday, IBM will also offer a number of new "Business in a Box" reference architectures - documentation which contains suggestions on how best to set up and deploy the systems.

For users of Intel-based blade servers, IBM will offer architectures centered around Microsoft or Linux operating systems, as well as SteelEye's high availability software and Citrix' hosted client application. IBM will also announce a reference architecture for the life sciences industry that uses its Power-based JS20 blades.

IBM decided against offering pre-configured bundles of its products, Jotwani said. "SMB customers just hate bundles, because they feel that one way or the other, they're paying for something they don't need," she said. "The whole point is to give the customer the reference architecture and the building blocks to implement the architecture."

The new chassis might be useful for customers who are comfortable without the redundancy that comes with two management modules, said Jerry Chen, senior director for enterprise services with NeuStar. "It can be used as an entry-level blade server that doesn't require high-availability service level agreements," he said. The $1,000 promotional pricing is "a very good price point to get into this," he added.

NeuStar, a 400-employee company that provides database services to the telecommunications industry, maintains a data center with approximately 100 of IBM's HS20 blade servers to run internal applications as well as Web and DNS farm services, Chen said.

Though the new chassis may not be appropriate for NeuStar's customer-facing applications, which have stringent service level agreements, Chen said he would consider using them. "If I wanted to use it for an internal service, then I might go with this stripped-down version of the BladeCenter, because it will provide me with a more cost-effective solution," he said.