Blade-server pioneer RLX Technologies Inc. will look to update its image next week when it introduces a number of servers and management applications, as well as an expansion into server and storage-networking products. These moves, along with IBM's announcements earlier this week that it's integrating Layer 2-7 Ethernet switching and Myrinet Cluster Expansion Cards into its BladeCenter, are designed to jump-start a blade market that has cooled in the past several months after a good deal of initial interest.
Much of blade computing's appeal came because it was a new design for servers that promised to share cooling capabilities and cut down on power usage. Some companies, most notably Dell, have expressed concern over how well heat from densely packed blade servers can be properly dissipated. Others cite the availability of management software as a sticking point as companies try to figure out the best way to introduce blade servers into their data centers.
While RLX executives say they haven't encountered problems with heat issues, they've targeted management as an area that needs to be improved before blades will be widely adopted. "The blade-server market has been slower taking off than expected, but it's starting to pick up as more commercial-quality products have come out," says Bob Van Steenberg, RLX's chief technology officer and VP of development.
On Oct. 15, RLX will launch its Control Tower XT version 1.3, which includes management of non-RLX blades and rack-mounted servers. In addition, RLX will begin offering HPC Cluster Manager, software that can be used to virtualize server resources in high-performance computing environments. HPC Cluster Manager will let administrators allocate and reallocate computing power depending on workload requirements.
In addition to new management software, RLX will also for the first time offer storage and server interconnects. RLX's new 600ex Dual Gigabit Ethernet switch is a 20-port integrated switch designed for the company's 600ex blade-server chassis. RLX is also introducing on Oct. 15 its FibreChannel SAN Passthrough for connecting blade servers to external storage, and in November it will debut its FibreChannel SAN Interconnect for its server chassis. These networking devices will hit the market around the same time as RLX's three new ServerBlades, which feature 2.6-GHz, 2.8-GHz, or 3.0-GHz Pentium IV processors.
IBM is including Nortel Networks Layer 2-7 GbE switches with its BladeCenter to help its customers better manage unpredictable server workloads. In addition, the combination of Myricom Inc.'s Myrinet Cluster Expansion Card and IBM's BladeCenter Optical Pass-thru module are designed to improve blade-server performance and processor availability for technical computing workloads.
In early August, rival Hewlett-Packard introduced processor upgrades for its ProLiant line of blade servers, as well as a GbE2 interconnect switch. The company's ProLiant BL10e blade server features a 1-GHz Pentium M processor, while its BL20p runs on a 3.06-GHz Xeon processor. HP led the worldwide market in blade servers shipped during the first quarter of this year, followed by IBM and Dell, according to research firm IDC. Dell was tops in the U.S. market.