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Sun Hedges On Infiniband As System Interconnect

San Jose, Calif. -- Opportunities for server blades are growing fast, but so are issues like managing, cooling and picking the right interconnects for this emerging category of densely packed systems, said computer executives at the Server Blade Summit here Wednesday.

Separately, Sun Microsystems is now hedging on its plans to standardize on Infiniband as a system interconnect, suggesting it may embrace new versions of Ethernet and PCI Express as well as Infiniband.

While traditional PC towers still represent half the server business, blades - essentially shelves of server cards stacked in a 19-inch rack - are on track to grow as fast as rack-mounted systems did in the late 1990s. Blades could become a $2.3 billion business totaling 800,000 units a year by 2005, James Mouton, vice president of the platform division of Hewlett-Packard's x86 server group, said in his keynote address.

Mouton and a counterpart from Sun agreed blades are set to take on all three tiers of data center jobs, handling Web traffic, applications and database transactions. Some users are experimenting with blades as an engine to drive thin-client computers, replacing traditional business desktops, said Mouton.

At the high-end, blades will surpass mainframe performance while offering PC-like flexibility, said Frank Schwartz, a blades specialist working for the chief technology office of Sun's volume server division. "We are talking about a chassis of blades that will handle what it takes two to three mainframes to do today. It's going to turn a lot of things upside down. It will be a huge, huge shift," he said.

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