Compaq flicks out blade servers

Offering a preview of its upcoming QuickBlade server architecture, Compaq Computer Corp. on Monday announced a partnership with Intel to develop Compaq QuickBlade servers in tandem with a new chip from Intel.

According to Brad Anderson, vice president of the mainframe server segment at Compaq's industry standard server group, the first Compaq QuickBlade servers are set to arrive by year's end.

Blade servers are ultra-dense servers targeted at ISPs and other companies that build large server networks. Their vertical, blade-like design allows users to maximize the number of CPUs per rack, taking the average from the current 84 CPUs per rack, up to potentially 300, according to Compaq.

Anderson said the low-power, low-heat characteristics of Compaq's QuickBlade servers will save companies money on electricity and cooling bills without sacrificing performance.

QuickBlade servers are being designed around a new Intel chip spawned from its low-power Mobile Pentium III lineage, according to Tom Garrison, director of IA-32 enterprise marketing for Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel. The dual-processor, sub-1GHz blade server chips will eventually become available to all of Intel's OEMs, Garrison said.

With QuickBlade servers, Compaq will begin competing with Woodlands, Texas-based RLX Technologies, which will launch its first blade servers on Tuesday, according to sources. RLX blade servers incorporate the low-power Crusoe processor from Transmeta.

The new Intel chip running QuickBlade servers will likely be "Tualatin," the code name for a 0.13-micron Intel chip also scheduled to arrive by year's end, according to Nathan Brookwood, principal analyst with Saratogo, Calif.-based Insight 64.

The smaller 0.13-micron architecture of Tualatin means Intel can give Compaq a chip that uses less power and generates less heat than chips built to Intel's current 0.18-micron standard. Compaq will likely take it from there, however, choosing its own core logic and chip board packaging over an Intel mobile chip set, which Brookwood said lack many features important to all server deployments such as error-correcting memory.

"I suspect what Compaq will do is combine the Intel processors with some server-class core logic to get the best of both worlds: data integrity, reliability, and the low-power characteristics," he said.

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