RLX Readies New Blade Products

A new low-end product, which will have twice the density of RLX's current low-end products, will ship by year's end.

Blade server pioneer RLX Technologies Inc. plans to expand its product line later this year and twice in 2003.

With larger companies like Hewlett-Packard Co. and IBM entering the space, RLX must differentiate while it can, Chief Technology Officer Bob VanSteenberg said in an interview.

A new generation of The Woodlands, Texas, companys low-end product will be announced in early or mid-November and will ship in December, VanSteenberg said, declining to state the products new name. It will have the same density as the current low-end 800i and 667 products, which hold 366 blades per 42U rack, and it will have 75 percent of the performance of the recently launched high-end 1200i series, he said.

Meanwhile, next spring or summer, RLX will launch a high-end version that will feature connectivity to network-attached storage. A partner in the storage industry will be unveiled after the announcement in November, VanSteenberg said. Another high-end version will appear later next year, with Fibre Channel storage options, he said.

RLX has sold about 5,000 blades to about 200 customers, and expects to be profitable next year, VanSteenberg said.

John Humphreys, an analyst with International Data Corp., has concerns about the hardware plans.

"My concern is more about where theyre placing their resources. Density is nice, but you dont want to give up performance," said Humphreys, in Framingham, Mass.

RLX will be selling against dual- and quad-processor blades from its rivals, he said. "Itll be critical for RLX to have products that they can counter with," Humphreys said.

However, he said he is impressed with RLXs ControlTower management software, an area in which RLX has ability to differentiate. "Theyve done a very good job driving innovation," he said.