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7/20/2009
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Christopher Hipp, Blade Server Pioneer, Dies

Menlo Park police said Hipp collapsed while riding his bike on Sand Hill Road, the thoroughfare famous for its concentration of venture capitalists.

Christopher Hipp, the IT pioneer who developed low-power-consuming blade servers, has died but he leaves a legacy of energy-efficient computer installations around the world.

Hipp, who founded RLX Technologies and the Blade Systems Alliance, died last week while cycling in Menlo Park. He was a professionally ranked competitive cyclist who cycled with Lance Armstrong, who noted Hipp's passing via Twitter from the Tour de France.

Menlo Park police said Hipp collapsed while riding his bike on Sand Hill Road, the thoroughfare famous for its concentration of venture capitalists.

According to Hipp's biography on his Web site , he patented the concept of utilizing ultra-dense blade servers and their ability to trim power consumption.

Frustrated with the sorry state of power waste in data centers in the late 1990s, Hipp began thinking that clusters of small energy-efficient processors -- blades -- might help solve the problem.

"It was amazing that data centers could operate with such wasteful power consumption, horrendous cooling and cabling, and lack of reliability," Hipp wrote on his Web site. "The deployment and management of these servers was becoming a headache of catastrophic proportion. What had happened was that while tier-one vendors were busy one-upping each other by cramming hotter CPUs into smaller and smaller sheet metal boxes, they completely forgot about efficiency!"

Hipp's solution began to find its way to the marketplace in 2001 when RLX began marketing its low-powered blade servers by placing 336 processors into a standard 73.5-inch rack. Transmeta's Crusoe chips powered the blades. RLX and Transmeta eventually failed to gain traction in the industry and both companies have dropped out of sight. However, their concept was gradually picked up by larger firms and Hipp's idea caught on.

Later, Hipp worked at the Blade System Alliance and with start-up companies in Silicon Valley.

A note on the Web site of the Blade Systems Alliance cites a heart attack as the cause of death, but the official cause will not be known until the Santa Clara County medical examiner's office releases autopsy results in a few weeks. Hipp's age could not be confirmed at this time; various reports say he was either 47 or 49.

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