Compaq readies new management software, blade servers

Compaq Computer Corp. will start selling server management software options in addition to the software customers get free with the purchase of a ProLiant server, the company said Wednesday. Compaq also released more details on its blade servers.

Starting early next year, all ProLiant servers will be shipped with a free ProLiant Essentials Foundation Pack, which includes SmartStart and Insight Manager, the tools that come with Compaq servers sold today. In addition, Compaq will sell new ProLiant Essentials Value Packs, the company said in a statement.

"We used to throw in management software free of charge. Now, because the software is so much more powerful, we are starting to sell the software and starting to create a revenue stream around software," said Hugh Jenkins, vice president of marketing for Compaq's Industry Standard Server Group.

The optional packages include software for remote server deployment, which allows an administrator to remotely set up a server; resource management, which is used to allocate server resources to specific applications; and remote management, Jenkins said. Compaq isn't releasing pricing information at this time.

The new software is a "key feature" of Compaq's ProLiant BL family of blade servers, due next year, according to the Compaq statement. The software enables functions such as rip-and-replace with automated "personality migration," making it easier for administrators to replace or add servers, Compaq said.

"After plugging in a new blade, the server will be intelligent enough to see that a new blade has been added and will be able to add a personality to that blade -- for example, make it a Microsoft Exchange server," Jenkins said.

Compaq is planning to launch three different tiers of blades, with the simplest single-processor blade server due on the market next month, Jenkins said.

The first-tier blades will have a single Intel Corp. ultralow-voltage processor and a fixed hard disk drive. More than 200 of these "hyperdensity" blades will fit into a 19-in.-by-42U rack when mounted in a 3U-high enclosure, according to Jenkins. The standard measure of height in 19-in.-wide rack-mounted server systems is 1U (which is equal to 1.75 in.).

"The best we can do today is 42 servers in one of those racks," Jenkins said, adding that the single-processor blades could be used as a Domain Name System server, a firewall or a small Web server.

Second-tier blades, scheduled to be available soon after next month and good for use as larger Web servers, will have two Intel Pentium III processors and multiple hot-swappable disk drives and will fit into a 6U-high enclosure, Jenkins said.

The top blades will have four processors and are designed to run databases or a large Exchange server. Those blades won't be available until later next year, Jenkins said.

All of the blades will have remote management capability embedded on an application-specific integrated circuit, according to Jenkins. Other Compaq servers will also have that functionality, he said. Remote management is now offered as an optional full-size Peripheral Component Interconnect card with ProLiant servers.

The Compaq announcement follows one made by Hewlett-Packard Co. this week regarding a suite of blade servers, the first products of which will ship in volume next month (see story). Sun Microsystems Inc. also offered a glimpse of what it's working on but said its products won't be ready to ship until late next year.

Sun was unusually silent on the blade front until it released a few details Tuesday about products it plans to release possibly as late as December 2002.

"We won't be the first -- that's true," said Colin Fowles, director of the blade business team for Sun's Volume System Products Group. "But we have been working on them and are at an advanced stage."

Blade servers have been a hot topic during the past few months, with most of the major server vendors shedding light on their plans for the thin servers designed to save space and lower power costs. Every year, companies manage to shrink the size of their server products, and the emerging blade technology appears to be taking this trend to a new level.

Other companies, such as Dell Computer Corp. and IBM, also plan to unveil their products next year.

Ashlee Vance of the IDG News Service contributed to this report.

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