Reluctant RLX falls for Intel

In a play to win more mainstream corporate accounts with its server blades, RLX Technologies Inc. on Monday raised the curtain on its first server blade based on Intel Corp. processors, the RLX ServerBlade 800i.

RLX defined early server blade architecture in 2001 by being one of the first server blade companies to market with dense, low-power systems run by the Crusoe processor from chip start-up Transmeta Corp.

However, promoting Crusoe in its server blades did little for RLX's image as a mainstream company catering to the typically conservative enterprise. As a result, RLX will now offer Intel chips as well, explained Emil Sayegh, the director of product marketing for RLX, based in The Woodlands, Texas.

"There are a lot of customers that fit in the general categories of scale-out (computing) who do not want to take the risk of the Transmeta processor, they need the safety of the Intel processor," said Sayegh.

RLX will offer two categories of server blades going forward; the Intel-based ServerBlade 800i with an 800MHz Mobile Pentium III Low Voltage processor, and the Transmeta-based ServerBlade 667 running a 667MHz Crusoe chip, said Sayegh.

"We are basically bifurcating our product line into two product lines, one that is high performance, high density, based on the Intel chip, and a product line that is low power, high density, based on the Transmeta chip," said Sayegh.

Preserving the Transmeta-based systems makes sense as it leaves RLX open to the market for pure science applications that run well across multiple clustered servers, like server blades, but don't require a high degree of floating point compute accuracy, explained Sayegh.

Experts agree the move by RLX to offer Intel chips was necessary for the company to gain enterprise market share.

"I think it's an admission that customers want choice and are not necessarily looking for Transmeta in the enterprise," said John Humpheys, a senior analyst with IDC, in Framingham, Massachusetts. "If power is a concern then Transmeta is an option. If performance is something you're looking for then you have Intel."

John Madden, a senior analyst with Summit Strategies, in Boston, Massachusetts., concurs. "I think Transmeta came up against the reality that many enterprise customers simply view Intel as a platform for their infrastructure environment, and they may see Transmeta as chips used in notebooks or in handhelds. If you are going to get the wider acceptance, and more importantly the partners that can get you into the enterprise, you have to have an Intel story."

The RLX ServerBlade 800i blades are loaded with the Intel chip, 512KB of L2 cache, support for 256MB, 512MB, or 1GB of DDR memory, one or two 2.5-inch ATA/66 disk drives, and 20GB or 40GB hard drives.

Two new system chassis were also introduced to support the Intel-based blades, a 1U (1.75-inch) System 100ex chassis that holds 24 individual 800i server blades, and a 3U System 300ex that holds three times as many blades.

Any number of RLX server blades can be managed from a single RLX Control Tower Blade 2, which fits in the blade chassis alongside other server blades. Backwards compatible to RLX's Transmeta-based server blades, the newly released Control Tower Blade 2 can assist users in managing either a Red Hat Linux or Windows 2000 operating environment. Remote console support via a secure Web browser is also available with Windows 2000 configurations.

Madden expects the Intel-based RLX blades to help the company be "more competitive against Compaq which just released its blades and has an entire Intel platform and an install base they can call on to move products."

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