HP Launches Blade Servers

Blade servers have offered the promise of cutting costs and space, but mainstream vendors have been slow to market with blade products. Late last year, Hewlett Packard Co. launched its own line of blade products to cater to users in the telco space or to those who depend on collocation facilities.

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

RLX Technologies Inc. was a pioneer in introducing blade servers based on Transmeta's low-power Crusoe processor. While power costs are a consideration for enterprises with a large number of servers, the low-power chip is important because it produces less heat than other mainstream processors. In dense rack environments it's easy for heat to build up and destroy the processors.

While the HP product shares the blade form factor, it uses 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 standard microcomputer chips.

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

HP's bc1100 server blades run a variety of Linux flavors. Today, users can choose from Red Hat, Debian and SuSE. HP says it will support Windows in the first half of this year, and HP-UX will also be available. Because HP-UX has been optimized for the IA-64 processor, it's likely that future blade servers will use one of Intel's 64-bit chips, such as Itanium.

Today, a bc1100 server sells for $1,925, and a bh7800 with a management blade commands $7,525.