HP Launches Blade Servers

Blade servers have offered the promise of cutting costsand space, but mainstream vendors have been slow to market with blade products.Yesterday, Hewlett Packard Co. launched its own line of blade products to caterto users in the telco space or depend on colocation facilities.

Blade servers fit several thin servers into a singlechassis. The individual servers have minimal storage and fit on a PCI card.They are designed to be one of many servers sitting on the edge of a network,serving up HTML and graphics in an N-Tier topology.

RLXTechnologies Inc. was a pioneer in introducing blade servers based onTransmeta’s low-power Crusoe processor. While power costs are a considerationfor enterprises with a large number of servers, the low-power chip is of interest becauseit produces less heat than other mainstream processors. In dense rackenvironments it is easy for heat to build up and fry the processors.

While the HP product shares the blade form factor, ituses an Intel processor. After the introduction of Crusoe, Intel Corp.introduced its own low-power chips, which gained broad adoption in notebooks.Like the Crusoe, the low-power Pentium III releases less heat than standardmicrocomputer chips.

The HP blade product fits one to sixteen blade serversin a 13U chassis, which also contains storage, networking equipment, and a specialmanagement blade for running the small servers.

It is easy to see why HP would pursue the blade servermarket, even with a slow start. According to analyst firm IDC, the blade servermarket should $2.9 billion by 2005, and the current economic hard times areforcing enterprises to seek ways to cut costs through wise investment andplanning.

HP’s bc1100 server blades run a variety of Linuxflavors. Today, users can choose from the Red Hat, Debian, and SuSE. HP says itwill support Windows in the first half of next, and HP-UX will also beavailable. Because HP-UX has been optimized for the IA-64 processor, it islikely future blade servers will use one of Intel’s 64-bit chips such asItanium.

Today, a bc1100 server sells for $1,925, and a bh7800with a management blade commands $7,525. Chris McConnell