RLX Technologies Inc. is taking a new tack in the blade server industry it helped pioneer, this time on the strength of its software.
Less than three weeks into his tenure as The Woodlands, Texas, companys third chairman and CEO, Douglas Erwin has crafted a strategy that will extend the companys Control Tower XT software into a full-fledged management product that can provide virtual clusters of RLX and non-RLX servers.
"I could care less whether I manage [a Hewlett-Packard Co.] blade or Sun [Microsystems Inc.] or Dell [Computer Corp.] or IBM blades," Erwin said in an interview with eWEEK. "What I want to do is be the single console managing this virtual cluster. And, oh, by the way, if they need more and more blades, hopefully theyll buy my blades."
As RLX moves to build up its software, blade servers are getting more powerful. Some OEMs, such as HP, are putting as many as four processors into a blade. IBM will release a four-way blade in August or September. RLX currently offers only one- and two-way systems, but Erwin, unlike his predecessor, did not close the door on offering more than two chips.
International Data Corp., in Framingham, Mass., sees the blade market ballooning from $90 million last year to $3.9 billion by 2006.
Still, the companys strongest push going forward will be in software. In fact, Erwin hopes to change the revenue mix from 90 percent hardware and 10 percent software to 50-50.
Within six months, RLX will announce enhancements to its Control Tower XT software, including automatic provisioning of blades, Erwin said. The software features provisioning that enables users to quickly deploy servers where theyre needed. Erwin said he wants to take the human factor out of the equation. "We can do provisioning better than anyone else," he said. "But I want the policies in place to do it without human intervention."
RLX began a push into data centers in February, when it rolled out its ActivIT infrastructure. That launch included the companys first two-processor blades, which are powered by Intel Corp.s Xeon chips, the ServerBlade 2800i and 3000i.
Industry observers say that RLXs software strategy makes sense. "Theyre trying to find a place in the value chain," said John Humphreys, an IDC analyst. "There is a whole bunch of software needed in the data center. It can be done."