RLX Exits Blade Server Business

The company will turn its focus to its Control Tower management software.

Nearly four years after helping create what has become one of the fastest growing segments in the server space, RLX Technologies Inc. will exit the blade server business and instead concentrate on expanding the market for its Control Tower management software.

RLXs goal is to sell Control Tower through OEM deals with major server vendors who want to supplement their management software with RLXs offering, said CEO Doug Erwin. RLX will offer Control Tower as a product that can plug into other management software, such as Computer Associates International Inc.s Unicenter or IBMs Tivoli products, Erwin said.

In the meantime, RLX will continue to service and support the hardware in its installed base, Erwin said.

The Woodlands, Texas-based company was among the first of the startups to offer blades, which started off essentially as stripped-down servers holding basic components such as processors that slip into a chassis, through which they share such features as I/O and power supply.

However, since then, most of the major OEMs have jumped into the market, which analyst firm IDC expects to jump to a $9 billion business in 2008, with blades comprising up to 50 percent of server revenue. IBM and Hewlett-Packard Co. have been leaders in the blade market for a few years, and Dell Inc. last month jumped back into the space with the PowerEdge 1855.

Erwin said the company had been considering becoming a software-only company for more than a year, but it was Dells entrance into the blade server space that convinced officials to make the move sooner rather than later. It was growing more evident that the blade server market was becoming increasingly commoditized.

"Its going to be a price war between the big boys, and we dont have the volume or scale to compete with the big boys," Erwin said. "A small software company can compete with a large software company because customers will bet on who they think has the best product. A small hardware company competing with a large hardware company has large hurdles to overcome in volume and scale."

RLXs announcement Thursday came about a month after the company rolled out the sixth generation of its blade servers, the SB6400, which is powered by Intel Corp.s Xeon processor with EM64T technology, which enables the chip to run both 32- and 64-bit applications.

However, what has earned RLX the most praise in recent years has been Control Tower, which enables users to quickly, automatically and remotely perform such tasks as provisioning and policy management, all from a single console. RLX also has begun creating modules that can plug into management systems from such vendors as IBM and HP, Erwin said.

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read eWEEK Labs review of RLXs Control Tower 6G.

The modules will enable users to simply buy what they need, rather than having to overhaul the management systems they already have in place, he said. RLX officials said this summer that Control Tower in the first half of 2005 will extend the reach of the suite with APIs to enable greater integration with software from other vendors, and also will increase the number of automated rules for managing an IT infrastructure.

Control Tower, which can manage both blade and rack-optimized environments, has garnered praise among industry observers and journals.

"It seems that when we get written about, its because of our management product, so were going to put our money where our mouth is," Erwin said.

Next page: Bringing investors back into the fold.