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IBM Doubles Down on Blade Servers

IBM Corp. on Tuesday unveiled its next generation of Intel-based server blades, which allow users to stack about twice as many blades per rack as the current 1U generation of server blades. IBM expects to ship the blades, which will support Windows, Linux and Novell NetWare on Xeon processors, in November.

The next architectural stage in blade development is an odd one, and one likely to present customers with different choices from different vendors until some standard is agreed upon. Several vendors crushed their rack-and-stack servers down to 1.75-inches high or 1 rack unit (1U), the smallest size for a rack-width server to be able to plug into a standard server rack.

Shrinking servers to 3U then 2U then the 1U "pizza box" size, then stuffing the pizza box with a second processor were linear solutions. What's next leaves room for more creative approaches.

IBM's solution to the problem is to create a chassis that provides a common infrastructure, into which users then plug several removable server cards or blades. The first iteration of the technology is a 7U chassis which fits up to 14 of the "servers on a card." IBM says that adds up to 84 of the blades in a three-foot rack. Each blade can carry one or two processors.

The chassis can also be configured with hot-swap cooling, power and management modules; and optional fibre channel switches. Big Blue calls the product the IBM eServer BladeCenter. As of now, prices are expected to start at $1,879 for a system with a single 2-GHz Xeon processor with 512 MB of RAM and no operating system or hard drive.

The company is also working with Microsoft to introduce a packaged solution involving IBM eServer BladeCenter and Microsoft Exchange 2000.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.

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