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RLX Aims To Boost Blade-Server Market

By moving introducing a number of servers and management applications, and moving into server and storage-networking products, blade-server pioneer RLX Technologies Inc. is updating its image. 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 launched 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.

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