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System makers are enhancing their blade servers with new technology that brings better performance and flexibility to the dense form factors.

RLX Technologies Inc. last week began shipping the SB6400, the sixth generation of its blade systems that feature Intel Corp.’s “Nocona” Xeon processors. The chips offer Intel’s EM64T (Extended Memory 64 Technology), enabling them to run both 32-bit and 64-bit applications.

In addition, through Intel’s “Lindenhurst” E7520 chip set, the SB6400 will support an 800MHz front-side bus, DDR2 (double data rate 2) memory and PCI Express. It will also offer embedded InfiniBand and Fibre Channel interconnect capabilities.

Along with the new blade system, RLX launched two rack-optimized 1U (1.75-inch) servers, the RM1400 and RM1100, both of which run the Nocona chips, said Bob Van Steenberg, vice president of platform design and chief technology officer for RLX, in The Woodlands, Texas.

B.J. Weschke, who has been using RLX ServerBlades for about a year, said he was pleased the company is upgrading its systems with Intel’s 64-bit extended Xeon processors.

“It would be something that we’d be interested in,” said Weschke, chief technology officer for ECI Conference Call Services LLC, in Wayne, N.J. “The business that we’re in is conference calling. We’re seeing the convergence of [standard telephones] and voice over IP, and with voice over IP … the bigger chip and the more powerful the chip you can put in the servers, the better.”

IBM, of Armonk, N.Y., is offering Topspin Communications Inc.’s InfiniBand Switch Module and HCA Expansion Card in its BladeCenter systems. The technology will offer users 80G-bit connectivity to the blade server chassis; RDMA (remote direct memory access) capabilities for faster performance; and the ability to consolidate clustering, LAN and SAN (storage area network) traffic from the chassis over a single I/O fabric, increasing throughput and reducing costs.

NEC Solutions (America) Inc. and Appro International Inc. are each growing the 64-bit capabilities of their respective blade families as well. At the SC2004 supercomputing show last week, NEC, of Rancho Cordova, Calif., unveiled the Express5800/1020Ba, powered by Intel’s Itanium 2 processor. Appro, of Milpitas, Calif., unveiled the Xtreme Blade, which runs on Advanced Micro Devices Inc.’s Opteron processor. Both blades also offer InfiniBand connectivity to external devices.

Click here to read David Chernicoff’s Nov. 10 column about integrated server blades.

For its part, Hewlett-Packard Co., of Palo Alto, Calif., and Brocade Communications Systems Inc., of San Jose, Calif., are jointly developing a SAN switch that they will build onto an HP blade.

The switch is based on Brocade’s new SilkWorm 4100, a 4G-bit-per-second SAN switch that the company introduced late last month at the Storage Networking World conference.

The integrated blade/switch system will help enterprises reduce the cost of the Fibre Channel switching technology by about 50 percent, when compared with buying it separately from the system and then connecting it, said Rick Becker, vice president and general manager of HP’s BladeSystem group. It will also enable users to increase rack space and improve the manageability and connections of multiple servers attached to SANs.

Becker said the move is a continuation of HP’s push to bring standard technology into its blade systems.

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