January 23, 2003

Server Blade Market Ripe With Linux Innovation

Brigid Fuller writes "Innovation based on the Linux operating system is rampant in the rapidly emerging server blade computing market according to the Server Blade Trade Association (SBTA).

"Just about every vendor's blade computing offering is coming out on Linux," said Lance Leventhal, technical director of the Server Blade Trade Association (SBTA). "The server blade industry is emerging as a level playing field for Linux and Windows."

Leading server blade hardware vendors, such as Dell, Egenera, HP, IBM, OmniCluster Technologies, RLX Technologies, Sun and Egenera have all released Linux-based versions of their platforms. For example, Dell's PowerEdge supports operating systems including Windows 2000 and Red Hat Linux. The IBM BladeServer supports Linux, Microsoft Windows and Novell Netware. The HP ProLiant BL supports Windows 2000, Red Hat Linux and SuSE Linux. Sun's Blade Server Platform runs on Solaris and Sun Linux. Claiming to offer the only blade server with pre-installed Linux, RLX Technologies' ServerBlades support Windows 2000 and Red Hat Linux. Egenera's BladeFrame runs only Red Hat Linux. OmniCluster Technologies' SlotServer platform supports Windows and Linux.

"Modular server platforms provide an ideal environment for the scalability, flexibility and licensing model of the Linux operating system," said John Humphreys, IDC's senior analyst, global enterprise server solutions. "As enterprise customers continue to adopt Linux for their general-purpose servers environments, they will require Linux-based implementations as they deploy server blades."

"The growth of Linux-based blade and dense servers in the datacenter is accelerating with increasing demand for high-performance computing in industries, such as financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing and life sciences," said Bruce Talley, vice president of marketing for CoroSoft. "While the price/performance of Linux on x86-based blades far exceeds that of Unix on RISC, the ongoing cost of management and operations of this environment still remains a challenge. Fortunately, many of the Server Blade Trade Association vendors have real products that can be implemented today to address these and other challenges."

Blade computing vendors, such as Amphus, CoroSoft, GoAhead, MigraTEC, MontaVista Software, PLX Technology, Sistina, StarGen and others, target Linux for server blade operating environments, components, management software and middleware.

"Most blade computing customers will run mixed environments consisting of Windows and Linux," said Joseph Wei, director of sales and marketing for Amphus, a developer of server management software for blade server platforms. "Linux has proven to be a very stable environment for Web servers, while enterprise databases are still deployed predominantly on Windows and Unix-based systems. Customers will make their operating system choice based on application availability, reliability and the total cost of ownership of the entire environment. Because Linus Torvalds retains control over the Linux kernel that is consistent across all Linux distributions, Linux developers can write to a single interface and deploy on multiple hardware platforms. Linux rivals Windows by providing an evolutionary alternative to the Unix operating system without the problems associated with having to write to multiple versions of Unix."

Amphus's ManageSite is an enterprise-class server management software that provides comprehensive blade server management including platform management, deployment management, workload management and power management for Linux and Windows. ManageSite is licensed to Hitachi and Tatung for use on their blade servers, and is seeking to work with other manufacturers of blade servers.

CoroSoft provides a comprehensive suite of datacenter infrastructure automation and virtualization software for industry-standard ultra-dense computing platforms. CoroSoft's Linux-based data center automation software suite enables enterprises and service providers to automate and underlying infrastructure including network connections, servers and storage
systems. CoroSoft Director along with specific CoroSoft Automation Modules for Linux applications such as Apache and DNS, reduces the cost of provisioning and managing applications, while increasing service levels.

"Our f-root DNS service handles thousands of transactions per second on average, and many more whenever we're attacked. To sustain that kind of volume, we've had to replace our large RISC-based hosts with a large number of low-end x86-compatible hosts acting in concert," said Paul Vixie, chairman of Internet Software Consortium, Inc. "But large numbers of hosts can turn into a maintenance nightmare for the operations staff. CoroSoft's solution is allowing us to treat a collection of low-end x86 boxes as if it were a single host -- which is the only way we're going to be able to scale our processing power without also scaling our operations expense."

GoAhead's SelfReliant is an integrated, platform-independent suite of middleware for developers of embedded systems and applications in the communications, military/aerospace and industrial control industries. SelfReliant runs as a layer on top of the Linux operating system providing middleware building blocks for project teams developing highly reliable systems.

MigraTEC's C/C++ source code migration and conversion tools enable rapid porting and migration for cross-platform projects such as Solaris to Linux.

MontaVista Software's COTS (Commercial-Off-The-Shelf) Carrier Grade Linux platform provides functionality specifically for telecom and datacom with high availability, hardening and real-time performance.

PLX Technology, a supplier of I/O interconnect silicon to the communications industry, provides system interconnect silicon in support of PCI, PCI-X, PCI Express, and HyperTransport which are all popular interconnects within the server blade community. PLX provides Linux software support for its silicon through host-side drivers and local-side LSPs, available with the PLX PCI SDK.

StarGen, Inc. provides customers of its StarFabric switched interconnect technology with a full set of software development tools for Linux including the Fabric Primitives Library (FPL) and a Linux Fabric Drive. The FPL is a C code library provided to discover, initialize and manage the fabric components.

Sistina's cluster file system and volume management software for Linux helps companies integrate storage area network (SAN) solutions and a new generation of blade-based computing architectures.

OmniCluster Technologies, Inc., supplies appliance blade products that support Windows and Linux, such as its SlotShield 3000G, an Ethernet-over-PCI security blade that includes Check Point's leading firewall software. The SlotShield combines high-speed interface, high-performance software and diskless operation to secure a single server from "inside the network" threats.

"Linux is ideal for network security," said Chet Heath, chief technology officer of OmniCluster Technologies. "There are other securable operating environments, but with Linux the price is right and widespread deployment is not a major economic or legal barricade. Linux, combined with a server blade platform for uniform deployment of security protection, means that intruders from within, as well as those form without can be easily controlled."

About Server Blades

Server blades are a new generation of highly advanced, ultra-dense server environments. A server blade is essentially an entire server that fits on a single card, or blade, and contains the CPU, memory, and networking components necessary to run applications. These blades are then plugged into a single chassis that can accommodate upwards of 24 server blades in the space previously occupied by one traditional server. Administrators could deploy 272 server blades a standard 6-foot data center rack, versus 21 low-profile PC servers, or 8 large UNIX servers. In addition to delivering an ultra-dense server environment, server blades offer extremely low power consumption, breakthrough "economies of scale" and a new level of "economies of skill" through its plug-and-play design. Blades are becoming big business and one segment of the server market that is experiencing escalating growth. Gartner DataQuest predicts that worldwide server blade shipments will increase from 84,410 units in 2002 to more than 1 million in 2006. The IT research firm anticipates that revenue from server blades will reach at least $1.2 billion during this time.

About The Server Blade Trade Association
The Server Blade Trade Association (www.serverbladeta.org) is an independent, not-for-profit organization of server blade manufacturers, software suppliers, users, system integrators and other interested parties established to serve as a clearinghouse for information about server blades, provide a focus for extending and improving standards, and promote their use in enterprise, telecom and other applications. SBTA will also be concerned with other types of blades, including compute blades, appliance blades, security blades, storage blades, database and operating system acceleration blades, as well as blade-related backplanes, interconnections, power distribution systems, physical interfaces and software.

The Server Blade Trade Association will convene for the first time at the Server Blade Summit 2003 conference (www.serverbladesummit.com) in San Jose on March 4 through 6, and all attendees will be encouraged to join."

Link: serverbladeta.org

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