Hardware market thick with blade tech

If the recent FOSE show was any indicator, blade server technology is on the rise. Blades were developed to meet ever-greater demands for computing power — power that must fit into finite physical spaces.

Avocent Corp. debuted a new appliance that allows desktop access to rack-mounted blade servers in another room or another part of the building. Hewlett-Packard Co. and RLX Technologies Inc. also showcased blade servers at FOSE.

Complete server systems located on a single circuit board are known as blades, for the single board that contains the processor, memory, network connections and storage capacity.

Multiple blades slide vertically into a single chassis, thereby requiring much less space than traditional servers and packing exponentially more computing power into small spaces. Other blade advantages include power savings, centralized management of many servers at once, lower operating costs and fewer maintenance requirements.

Typical uses for blade servers include Web hosting and Internet infrastructure applications, gateway and firewall servers, and high-performance technical computing such as that used for scientific research.

Avocent Cstation C1000

Avocent does not make blade servers itself, but the company debuted a new desktop appliance designed to bring the power of rack-mounted blade servers to the desktop.

The appliance, the Cstation C1000, is a small box that can be mounted under a user's desk or, when a current prototype hits the market, on the back of a flat- panel monitor. The box is an extension of the server's system bus, which means you can connect a monitor, mouse and keyboard to it and work as though the computer were at the desk.

Users can also interact with personal digital assistants, removable media devices, digital cameras and other peripheral devices as they would if the computer were on the desk — an advantage over thin-client devices, Java terminals and other similar technology.

Cstation allows for PC and server consolidation in a server room and also saves desk real estate.

The Cstation C1000, which costs $1,075, uses existing Category 5 wiring and can extend the PC bus up to 100 meters. Another model, the C1100, costs $2,395 and can use existing fiber-optic wiring to extend the bus up to 800 meters.

HP Blade Servers

HP's FOSE offerings included two blades that join its ProLiant BL blade server line: the BL20p G2 dual-processor blade and the BL40p four-way processor blade.

Both offer heterogeneous storage-area network connectivity, which allows enterprise applications to run in a blade server environment. SAN connectivity can expand storage scalability to hundreds of terabytes.

The BL20p G2 features 3.06 GHz Intel Corp. Xeon processors, SAN storage capability, up to 8G of PC 2100 Double Date Rate (DDR) memory and Gigabit Ethernet. HP suggests using this blade for applications such as terminal server farms, Web hosting environments, and e-commerce and streaming media applications.

Prices for the BL20p G2 blade start at $3,888.

The BL40p blade, featuring four 2.0 GHz Xeon processors and up to 12G of memory, was designed for environments that require multiprocessor support and SAN connectivity. Prices start at $8,999.

RLX Blade Servers

The new blade offerings from RLX included the RLX ServerBlade 2800i and 3000i and the System 600ex chassis that holds them.

Both blades feature dual Intel Xeon Pentium 4 processors, with 2.8 GHz processors on the 2800i and 3.0 GHz processors on the 3000i. They also include 512K of Level 2 cache, a 533 MHz frontside bus, a 60G hard drive and up to 8G of fast DDR memory.

The 600ex chassis comes with three hot-swappable fans and is powered by three 1,500-watt redundant power supplies. It also features dual embedded Gigabit Ethernet ports and dual 100M Ethernet network cards, one for management and the other for workload traffic.

Prices start at $3,000 per blade plus a $200 license fee for each blade. The 600ex chassis also starts at $3,000.

In addition, RLX offers a management solution called Control Tower XT that costs $3,000.


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