Thin is in for servers, and IBM this week joined the growing ranks of computer makers to announce it will introduce a "blade"-style system in the third quarter of this year.
Blade servers are much smaller than todays commonly used rack-mounted servers, and enable enterprise customers to greatly expand their computing power per rack.
For example, some vendors can squeeze more than 300 of the ultra-thin servers into an industry-standard rack originally designed to hold only 42 1U servers, once the thinnest chassis available.
However, IBMs eServer Blade Center will initially be offered in a far more modest 82 blades-per-rack configuration, the company announced Thursday.
But the Armonk, N.Y.-based computer maker contends that its blades, which will feature Intel Corp.s 32-bit Xeon and 64-bit Itanium processors, will pack more performance per rack than systems offered by its rivals. As a result, IBMs blades will be able to run more demanding enterprise applications than is currently possible on competitors offerings, the company said.
"The opportunity of the blade architecture is to reduce cost and complexity—not performance and reliability," said Tom Jarosh, vice president of business development at IBM. "We intend to leverage IBMs high-performance computing power, self-managing technology, and mainframe-class reliability features into our blade systems."
The high-density servers first hit the market early last year when several start-up companies—most notably RLX Technologies Inc., which was founded by several former executives Compaq Computer Corp.—touted the new designs as a solution to ease overcrowding in data centers.
Since late last year, several major vendors have introduced or announced plans to offer blade designs, including Compaq, Hewlett-Packard Co. and Dell Computer Corp.
But despite the heralded advantages of blade design, especially useful for businesses that require multiple servers to handle tasks such as Web hosting, sales have been minimal, due in part to the technologys arrival in the midst of a U.S. recession.
However, analysts say the future for such devices is bright. According to market research firm International Data Corp., blade server sales are expected to reach nearly $3 billion by 2005.
IBMs Blade Center will support the computer makers eServer, TotalStorage and networking solutions, and can be remotely managed by the companys proprietary software, IBM Director.
In addition to featuring Intels high-end server processors, the system will be equipped with double-data-rate DRAM (DDR) with error correction coding (ECC). Gigabit Ethernet switches will be incorporated into the system to provide high-speed network access to the blade servers.
First systems are scheduled to ship in the third quarter, at which time pricing and more detailed specifications will be released.