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Intel builds servers, block by block

The chip giant is planning to release several "building blocks" to make it easier for business partners to build servers using the company's processors.

Intel is releasing several "building blocks" to make it easier for business partners to build servers using Intel processors, the company will announce Monday.

The new products aim to make it easier for computer makers to bolt together hardware without spending as much money on engineering. Although processors are Intel's biggest revenue source, the chipmaker also sells computer subsystems.

The new building blocks coming Monday are for making servers, networked computers that are more powerful and often more reliable than average desktop computers. The building blocks include several motherboards--the electronics boards on to which processors, memory and other components are attached. Intel also is releasing a chassis into which those motherboards and other components are bolted. Finally, the company will release bare-bones systems that require the addition of processors, memory and hard drives to become functioning systems.

The building blocks are used by numerous Intel customers, from tiny mom-and-pop shops to the largest computer makers, said Phil Brace, marketing director of Intel's Enterprise Platforms and Solutions Division. Often, those customers don't have their own engineering departments and are faced with a "do-it-yourself" scenario.

With the building blocks Intel supplies, the company makes sure its equipment works with various combinations of hard drives, network adapters and operating systems. "We have validated hundreds of combinations," he said.

Intel builds chipsets, which join processors with each other, as well as memory and input-output systems. Some of the building blocks Intel is releasing use chipsets from rival ServerWorks, a Broadcom subsidiary.

Among the products are high-end and low-end motherboards for servers that incorporate two Xeon chips, a low-end motherboard for single-processor Pentium 4 servers, and a high-end motherboard for servers with four Xeon chips. Dual-processor motherboards are available for 1.75- and 3.5-inch-thick rack-mounted systems.

Intel also plans new building blocks coming in the second half of 2002, Brace said. These will include new versions of Intel's "Plumas" chipset, which offers a faster connection to the processor. Intel also will begin selling building blocks for four-processor Itaniums.