IBM has rolled out a new BladeCenter chassis and several blade servers. One of the new blades is based on the Cell processor IBM is developing with Sony and Toshiba that is used in Sony's PlayStation game console.

The new chassis, dubbed the BladeCenter H, increases by tenfold the amount of I/O bandwidth available to blade servers, claimed IBM. The BladeCenter also comes with a management tool, the Advanced Management Module, which integrates with IBM's Director and Tivoli products to help IT managers install and manage their systems from one central location. The BladeCenter H and Advanced Management Module will be available in March starting at US$3,849.

IBM is targeting its forthcoming Cell processor-based blade, which boasts nine dual cores, for 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, said Ted Maeurer, senior manager for IBM Cell solutions. At the event Maeurer demonstrated how a CT scan reconstruction could be expedited by using a Cell processor-based blade. IBM's Cell-based blade will be available in the third quarter of 2006.

The company also introduced its next Power processor-based blade, the JS21, built with IBM's dual-core PowerPC 970MP processor. The blade includes built-in virtualisation capabilities. IBM is targeting the blade at the bioinformatics, grid computing, retail, manufacturing and petroleum research companies. The BladeCenter JS21 will be available in March starting at $2,499.

To complete the range of new products, the company announced a low-power, dual-core, Intel Xeon-based blade, the BladeCenter HS20, geared to help users control data center power and cooling. The BladeCenter HS20 will be available in April starting at $1,749.

The new blades can be used in any IBM BladeCenter chassis model.

BladeCenter users welcomed the low-power blade server.

"Once you condense and consolidate, the problem is heat. We like seeing the new low-wattage processors," said Dave Samic, senior network analyst for FirstMerit.

"I like the way IBM is going cafeteria-style for servers, they're doing a lot to match the server to the needs of a business where before you had to buy a generic server," said Jack Ondeck, senior vice president and chief information officer, Bristol West Insurance Group.