IBM, Intel Bulk Up Blade Servers

The two companies join forces to develop enterprise-class ultradense servers based on Xeon and Itanium.

IBM and Intel Corp. announced Tuesday that the two high-tech giants have joined forces to develop enterprise-class ultradense servers, called blades, which will be based on Intel Xeon and Itanium processors.

The new servers will be more powerful than existing blade offerings, which primarily rely on low-power processors. While such slower-running chips run cooler and thus enable companies to pack more than 300 blades into a single 6-foot-tall rack, the processors lack the power to run many compute-intensive business applications.

IBM and Intel disclosed Tuesday that they will jointly develop beefier servers featuring the chip makers most powerful processors that the two companies believe will prove more appealing to large corporate customers. The trade-off, however, is that users will only be able to pack about 84 of the heftier blades into a single rack.

Under the multiyear agreement, IBM and Intel will share research and development costs and have full access to results from their collaborative efforts. Ultimately, IBM will sell the resulting hardware under its brand name, while Intel will offer similarly configured unbranded servers to computer makers worldwide.

Further details of the partnership were not disclosed.

IBM said it will introduce the first system based on the collaborative effort next week.

Blade servers were first introduced to the market last year by startup companies, and eventually introduced by larger computer such as Hewlett-Packard Co. and Compaq Computer Corp. early this year. HP continues to offer the two blade designs following its acquisition of Compaq in May.

Other major computer makers have also announced blade designs, including Dell Computer Corp. and Sun Microsystems Inc.

While most computer makers will feature Intel processors in their ultradense servers, IBM contends its partnership with the chip maker will give it an advantage over its rivals.

"This is not your traditional OEM relationship," said Tim Dougherty, director of blade server strategy at IBM, based in Armonk, N.Y. "Were actually forming a multiyear design and development effort. Each of us will have full access to these bladed products to sell to our respective customers."

Intel agreed that its relationship with IBM is unique.

"We collaborated with NEC Corp. in the past to develop servers, but what were doing here is different," said Phil Brace, director of marketing in the enterprise products group at Intel, based in Santa Clara, Calif. "This is a multiyear agreement to develop a new marketplace, whereas previous relationships have been based more on existing technologies."