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Tech Industry releases first Transmeta-based server

The start-up asserts that its 2-pound server consumes less than one-fourth the power of comparable servers that use Intel chips. released on Tuesday the first server based on a Transmeta chip. Other manufacturers are expected to follow in the coming months.

The Ottawa-based start-up hopes to capitalize on a trend toward server size-reduction with its NetWinder 3100. Weighing about 2 pounds, the server is designed to fit into dense racks designed to hold several servers at once.

Rebel asserts that its server consumes less than one-fourth the power of comparable servers based on chips from Intel or Advanced Micro Devices--a crucial factor in the overall size and cost of the computer. The NetWinder 3100 consumes 14 watts of power, compared with 60 watts by a comparable server using a chip from Intel, according to Rebel.

In the past, companies would install a few complex multiprocessor servers to run their Web sites and databases. Increasingly, however, many e-commerce companies and others are opting to let part of their networks depend on phalanxes of nearly identical, easily replaceable and fairly cheap servers. The NetWinder 3100 costs $1,795.

Power consumption is a crucial factor in such companies' dense computing rooms. The more power a server consumes, the more heat it gives off. Astronomical utility costs, independent generators, super-cooled operation rooms, and an insatiable need for more floor space have all become facts of life for Web hosting companies.

If the cooling systems break down, servers can melt, causing Web site failure and angry calls from clients.

Conversely, by reducing power consumption, companies can increase the number of servers they can cram into a finite space.

Other companies, such as RLX Computing and FiberCycle, plan on releasing Transmeta-based servers in the first half of the year, according to sources at both companies.

RLX Chief Technology Officer Chris Hipp said last month that Exodus, a major hosting company, is testing some of RLX's servers.

It is unclear, however, whether these servers will take off in the market. Rebel has been marketing a server containing a StrongARM chip, which also consumes less power than most microprocessors. The server has not made a huge dent in the marketplace.

The picture could change with the new NetWinder, the company said. Unlike StrongARM chips, Transmeta's Crusoe can handle the same software as Intel chips.

"In developing our latest product, we have taken this a step further by ensuring that our customers not only receive all of the features that their small business needs, but that they also get a solution that is up to four times as power efficient as other (Intel) compatible servers," Solly Patrontasch, Rebel's president, said in a statement.