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RLX goes for Dell-spoiler with 6G blades

In a move clearly designed to put Dell's blade server launch into perspective, the company that kick-started this whole industry sector chose Friday to launch its sixth-generation blade, the SB6400

RLX Technologies, a relatively small server vendor which pioneered the development of blade server technology, has recently updated its blades with dual 64-bit Xeon chips. Like Dell's new blade server, the RLX 610e chassis squeezes 10 blades into a 7U-high chassis.

To differentiate itself, RLX marketing will rely heavily on its experience and the fact that it is now on the sixth generation of its hardware and its management software.

"What distinguishes us?" said Tejas Vakil, vice-president of marketing at RLX. "We have done a lot of work on thermals, our only moving parts on the blades are the disk drives, and these are positioned on the cool side of the heatsink. IBM and HP put theirs on the warm side."

RLX's Control Tower 6G management software can monitor up to 1,000 nodes, re-provisioning servers on the fly by automatically creating new disk images of an operating system and application when it's required, said Vakil. Monitoring, he said, has been extended to layer seven of the network "so we can track the performance of applications, and use that as a proxy indicator of server performance if need be".

On the new blades, RLX has added dual-channel DDR-2 memory, an 800MHz frontside bus and PCI Express support, and the blades have high-speed Infiniband and Fibre Channel ports on board for high-performance storage and clustering.

The company also launched two 1U high rack-mounted servers; the entry-level RM1100 with single processor, up to 4GB of memory and two SATA disk drives; and the RM1400 which comes with dual Xeon EM64T processors, up to four SCSI disk drives and 8GB of memory. Both rack-mount servers are supplied with RLX's Intelligent Management Kit, which allows them to be fully managed by the company's Control Tower 6G management software. This means they can, for instance, take advantage of feature such as dynamic provisioning, in which applications are rolled out to more servers as their workload increases, said Vakil.

The RLX SB6400 blades and RM1400 rack-mount servers are shipping now, said Vakil, and the RM1100 is due to ship in December. Prices are set at $2,700 for the SB6400, $1,700 for the RM1400 and $1,300 for the RM1100.

Daniel Fleischer, a senior research analyst at IDC, said RLX remains a serious contender in the market.

"They are focused on blades and blade management so you can only fulfil a certain part of your infrastructure, but generally we see blades deployed to solve specific issues so this is not necessarily a bad thing."

Fleischer said RLX is also able to give a better customer experience than some large vendors.

"You will get much batter contact with them and enjoy a very close relationship. They have the time and ability to develop these close relationships, and they need good customer references if they are going to move out into enterprise world," said Fleischer.