RLX launches new blade server software

RLX Technologies Inc. today released a new version of its server blade management software and announced that it will begin offering several software packages to help customers create large clusters of servers.

RLX’s Control Tower 3 product is the latest version of its software for managing how applications run on blade servers. The software also monitors the health of RLX’s servers and can notify an administrator of possible failures. With the third iteration of Control Tower, users will find new features for scheduling the deployment of applications across blade servers and tools for tracking and predicting a company’s server usage, said John Schmitz, product marketing manager at RLX.

Along with Control Tower 3, RLX will begin offering customers various software packages for creating and maintaining clusters of servers linked to each other. RLX has partnered with Platform Computing Inc. and MPI Software Technology Inc. to create clustering software that allows an administrator to divide up different applications across clusters and set limits on how much processing power or storage capacity different groups of cluster users can access, Schmitz said.

RLX was one of the first companies to offer blade products, trimmed-down servers that can be packed tightly into a rack-mounted unit. The company competes against Hewlett-Packard Co., NEC Corp. and Egenera Inc. Other server makers, such as Dell Computer Corp. and IBM Corp., also are starting to bring out blade products.

The software improvements should help RLX, based in The Woodlands, Texas, to compete against bigger rivals, said one analyst.

“One thing that is impressive is that RLX does a lot of its software work in-house,” said John Humphreys, a senior analyst with International Data Corp. (IDC), in Framingham, Massachusetts. “They have very user-friendly software and seem to have a solid idea for provisioning applications on blades.”

With Control Tower 3, administrators will be able to schedule times for certain actions to take place on the blade servers. RLX has made it possible, for example, to set up an application server on the blades and have it process one application for half the day and then another application during the rest of the day. This feature allows companies to have servers work on particular tasks depending on the usage trends they see in the company.

Companies additionally will be able to generate statistics on how users are consuming processing power, memory and disk drives. Administrators can use this data to see how much capacity a particular customer uses, for example.

Current RLX customers can upgrade to the new software at no cost via a download from RLX’s Web site, Schmitz said.

To help manage clusters of servers running the Linux operating system, RLX has tied some clustering tools into its Control Tower software. RLX has teamed with its partners to provide tools for loading software onto large groups of servers and then managing those applications. These management features are available directly from the Control Tower GUI (graphical user interface).

RLX has tapped new business in the clustering segment for its servers, which were once targeted primarily at Web hosting companies. Last month, researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory unveiled a 240-processor Beowulf cluster dubbed Green Destiny. The system was significant because it was the first of its kind to use the compact blade servers for supercomputing tasks. Clusters are often used by scientists and industries such as aerospace and oil and gas to spread complex computing tasks across a number of systems.

Still, RLX is sticking to its Web hosting roots by announcing another partnership Monday with Ensim Corp. to bundle some Web hosting software with RLX’s hardware. RLX will offer its servers with the Ensim WEBappliance 3.1 software at a combined hardware and software price of $1,599 per blade.

In the first quarter of this year, blade vendors generated a total of US$15 million [m] in revenue, according to IDC. Compaq Computer Corp. — now part of HP — captured the lion’s share with 42 percent of the market. RLX followed with 28 percent, HP with 19 percent and NEC with 11 percent of the market.

Although blade sales have been slow thus far, Humphreys said several indicators show the market should expand as promised.

“What we are seeing is that end users are very much in tune with the blade value proposition,” Humphreys said. “They are beginning to think about blades today and are testing them now and will begin rolling applications in the next few months.”

RLX is online at http://www.rlxtechnologies.com/