IBM has announced that it will make its BladeCenter system available for smaller firms more user friendly.

The 'Office Ready Kit' aims to make the BladeCenter S - which IBM announced back in June but which won't ship until December - more suitable for use in an office rather than a datacentre.

The kit includes air filters to help stop build-up of dust on heatsinks, which would make them less efficient, and a silencing system that's alleged to reduce noise levels to 60dB, which IBM calls the equivalent of a quiet conversation. IBM said the kit also includes space for added components such as storage libraries or power supplies as well as keyboard, monitor and mouse in a single lockable enclosure.

IBM's press release on the product includes a video in which IBM compares its product to arch-competitor HP's BladeSystem c3000, launched last month.

However, HP's product is already shipping, unlike IBM's.

IBM's comparison makes much of the fact that the HP BladeSystem c3000's model aircraft-inspired fans make it considerably louder than the IBM product. We've seen and heard HP's fans in action and they are undoubtedly loud, although HP's Peter Mansell countered that the system turns off those fans that aren't necessary, which could make the c3000 quieter than IBM's video suggests.

IBM also reckoned that the HP offering is over twice as expensive when the two systems are similarly configured.

Analyst Charles King at Pund-IT agreed that IBM's offering was the more integrated of the two.

IBM is, however, having several bites of the cherry with this product: it's the second pre-launch statement that Big Blue has made about the BladeCenter S, and the product has yet to ship.

In response to IBM's video, HP's blade product manager Eric Krueger said: "While IBM still has yet to ship its first BladeCenter S, we find it quite humorous that it is basing its entire value on a grossly overblown acoustical advantage over the BladeSystem c3000 and the ability to hold office conversations. With over 1,000 c3000 chassis shipped since 12 September, it is no wonder why Armonk is buzzing. While IBM continues to spin their wheels on noise measurements that aren't third party verified, we'll continue to advance our overall blade server market share lead with a chassis that helps mid-size businesses save
money, time and energy consumption.

"It's also interesting that IBM continues to push its solution to reside under or on top of a knowledge workers' desk. As you pointed out in your blog entry on September 14, anything from 60-80 db is loud. So do these knowledge workers plan to wear earmuffs in their office work environment? In addition to the noise, the large size of IBM's BladeCenter S makes it quite an odd choice for a desktop environment. As we've stated all along, the c3000 was built for small, harsh environments being used as an IT room. It's designed for closets, back rooms, store rooms, mail rooms, shipping docks, etc -- not a place where everyday business conversations or meetings are happening."