HP to enter server blade market with Powerbar

Hewlett-Packard will jump into the server blade market sometime during the fourth quarter of this year with a product code-named Powerbar, according to HP officials.

Server blades are a new breed of ultradense server sporting a revolutionary vertical design that lends itself nicely to low-power, low-heat operation while allowing users to fit more than 300 server blades in a standard rack. Experts say server blades have the potential to solve many of the current problems faced by Web hosters, Internet datacenters, and other companies with large front-end server deployments.

HP's Powerbar will utilize both the company's own PA-RISC processors as well as chips from Intel, HP officials said. HP is also likely to offer Powerbar products packing Intel Corp.'s upcoming Tualatin chip, a 0.13-micron architecture chip designed for cooler, low-power performance, industry sources said.

HP officials said they are also considering offering Powerbar servers loaded with Transmeta Corp.'s low-power Crusoe chip.

The announcement of HP's server blade plans follows server blade product launches from companies including FiberCycle Inc. and RLX Technologies Inc. RLX recently introduced its System 243 server blade system, which gives RLX customers the ability to put as many as 336 server blades in a single rack, according to RLX officials.

Compaq has also announced plans to unsheathe its first server blades before year's end. Officials said Compaq plans to quickly gain ground on RLX and FiberCycle with blades also powered by Intel's upcoming Tualatin chip.

"We are getting to the limit of where the traditional rack-mounted server can take us," said Gordon Haff, a research director for high-end architectures at the Aberdeen Group in Boston. "Particularly in these high-density environments. As the number of servers in datacenters increases, there is clearly a need for servers that are physically smaller and address needs that go beyond density," like the ability to manage and add servers more easily, Haff said. Marketed for now only as front-end Web servers and appliance servers, server blades likely represent the look of all future network servers, Haff believes.

HP is the No. 2 server vendor in the world, with a 16 percent worldwide revenue share, according to a recent study from IDC, headquartered in Framingham, Mass.

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