Compaq unveils first server blades

Making its debut in the fledgling server blade market, Compaq Computer Corp. on Monday rolled out the first server blades of its new ProLiant BL Line.

The arrival of the ProLiant BL e-Class server blades makes Compaq the second major computer maker, behind Hewlett-Packard Co. (HP), to make server blades available. IBM Corp., Sun Microsystems Inc., and Dell Computer Corp. are expected to quickly follow suit, as the vertical, modular design of server blades saves companies money by consuming less power, and taking up less space, than traditional servers. Ease of manageability will quickly become another advantage for server blades as clustering software improves, experts said.

Dense enough to pack 280 server blades into an industry standard server rack, the ProLiant BL e-Class server blades host a single Intel Ultra-Low Voltage Pentium III processor, 1 GB of memory, 30 GB of storage, and two 10/100 Ethernet connections, according to Compaq.

The 5.25-inch high chassis for the e-Series server blades is equipped with redundant, hot-swappable cooling fans and power connections, consolidated network connections, and a form of partitioning technology that lets users run both Linux and Windows 2000 on blades operating in the same chassis.

As major server blade vendors like Compaq, HP, IBM, and Sun each begin to duke it out over the next year over which type of server blade I/O interface should become a standard for server blades, Compaq is placing its bet on IP (Internet protocol) to be the prevailing standard, said Mary McDowell, the senior vice-president and general manager of Compaq’s industry standard server group, in Houston, Tex.

HP claims a combination of the Compact PCI and NEBS standard is the right standard to build server blades to, and IBM is looking at Infiniband for its server blades.

However, Compaq’s McDowell said, “we think there already is a standard for server blades, and that standard is IP, which is already very pervasive in the data centre.”

Experts like Gordon Haff, a senior analyst with Illuminata Inc., in Nashua, N.H., don’t expect the industry to agree on a common standard for sever blades anytime soon.

“I think to assume that anything you buy today is going to be able to plug and play with other vendor’s (blades) in the near future is probably a bad assumption,” Haff said

Compaq’s line of ProLiant BL blades are part of the company’s Adaptive Infrastructure Strategy (AIS), according to Compaq. AIS calls for the addition of advanced failover and clustering technology, remote system management, self-healing technology for server hardware, and system automation.

As part of AIS, Compaq on Monday also launched initial versions of its ProLiant Essentials software for the company’s rackable 1U (1.75-inch) ProLiant DL360 servers.

The Essential software includes what Compaq is calling a Lights-Out capability, a software upgrade option that provides free future upgrades to features like Virtual CD, Virtual Graphical Console, and Virtual Floppy. Essentials also contains a Rapid Deployment Pack, which helps to reduce the time and cost of deploying new Compaq servers. A Workload Management Pack is also part of Essentials to assist users in running multiple applications on 4- and 8-way ProLiant servers, according to Compaq.

A single ProLiant BL e-10 server blade with 512 MB of SDRAM starts at US$1,799. A10-pack of ProLiant BL e-10s start at US$17,091. Single licenses for ProLiant Rapid Deployment Packs start at US$119, ten licenses run for US$1,190. ProLiant Work Load Management Packs start at US$1,875, and ProLiant Integrated Lights-out Advanced Packs start at US$399, according to Compaq.

Compaq Canada in Richmond Hill, Ont., is at