Blade Pioneer and RLX Founder Chris Hipp Dead at 49

Chris Hipp, "the father of blade technology" and a founder of RLX Technologies, apparently died of a heart attack July 14. Hipp was an executive with RLX when the company unveiled the first blade servers in 2001, a move that at first got little attention from the major OEMs but has since transformed the hardware industry. Hipp, an avid competitive bicycle racer, had left RLX by the time HP bought the company in 2005, and had been working with the Blade System Alliance and various startups at the time of his death.

Chris Hipp, one of the founders of RLX Technologies and a pioneer in blade system technology, died of an apparent heart attack July 14 at the age of 49.

Details of Hipp's death are sketchy, though the Blade System Alliance, of which he was a technology chair and an adviser, had this brief note on its Web page:

"Today we lost a good friend and the true founder of the Blade Server Industry, Chris Hipp. Chris has always been an innovator and profound technologist, providing direction and insight to the industry and especially this association. Chris passed away after suffering a heart attack. He will be sorely missed."

News of his death also was circulating throughout the competitive cycling community. Hipp was an avid racer who had ridden with Lance Armstrong. Some tributes to Hipp from the bicycling world can be found here.

However, in the technology world, Hipp will always be linked to blade servers.

On his Website, Hipp had written about the state of data centers in the late 1990s, and the frustration among IT administrators over the issues associated with deploying large numbers of 1U (1.75-inch) "pizza box" rack servers.

"It was then that I realized that there was a market for a more efficient hardware/software platform and better tools for managing them," Hipp wrote on the site. "It was amazing that data centers could operate with such wasteful power consumption, horrendous cooling and cabling, and lack of reliability. The deployment and management of these servers was becoming a headache of catastrophic proportion. What had happened was that while tier one vendors were busy one-upping each other by cramming hotter CPUs into smaller and smaller sheet metal boxes, they completely forgot about efficiency! It was obvious to me that making servers smaller, while simultaneously increasing CPU megahertz and thermal output, was not a sustainable trend. There had to be a better way."

RLX came onto the scene in 2001 when it introduced its low-powered blade servers, which could put 336 processors into a standard 42U (73.5-inch) rack. The blades were powered by Transmeta's low-power Crusoe chips.

RLX officials, including Hipp, argued that blade servers, which share such resources as networking and power, were a good alternative to traditional 1U (1.75-inch) and 2U (3.5-inch) "pizza box" rack-mount systems, particularly in dense data center environments for hosting companies and co-location centers.

"He was the father of blade technology when he was with RLX," Jim Hall, president of the Blade System Alliance, said in an interview. "He invented the blade server."

Initially RLX was hampered by a number of factors, including questions surrounding its choice of chips from Transmeta, another relatively new vendor, and the dot-com collapse that rapidly shrunk IT budgets.