The computing giant has begun selling its first "blade" servers, networked computers stacked side by side so that 280 can fit in a single 6-foot-tall rack.
The BL series, code-named QuickBlade, is part of a movement that began more than a year ago to squeeze as much horsepower into as little floor space as possible. There was more urgency to the movement when the Internet was a hot item and telecommunications companies were still buying lots of equipment, but most analysts still believe bladed servers will catch on in the long run, especially with the arrival of software designed to make them easier to manage.
The first Compaq bladed server is the BL10e, which uses a 700MHz Pentium III chip that consumes much less electricity than most of Intel's CPUs, the company said. Twenty BL10e servers--each a naked motherboard with processor, up to 1GB memory, two Ethernet ports and a hard disk--can be mounted side by side within a rack-mountable chassis 5.25 inches tall.
A single blade has a starting price of $1,799, with a 10-pack costing $17,091. Compaq executives say the systems will be popular for Internet tasks such as serving up Web pages.
A later p-Class line of blades will be more powerful than the entry-level e-Class line that will debut Monday. The p-Class line will include dual-processor blades and, later, four-processor models.
Hewlett-Packard, which is seeking to acquire Compaq, beat Compaq to the blade-server market by a few weeks, but the company piggybacked on an existing technology called CompactPCI.
IBM also is working on blades code-named Excalibur. Dell Computer and Sun Microsystems, the other major server sellers, also have blade projects under way.
Hand in glove with the blade hardware are software projects as well. Compaq's "Adaptive Infrastructure" plan lets groups of servers be managed en masse. The software lets administrators change groups of servers from one task to another, install software on servers quickly, and divvy up server resources such as processors and memory to specific programs.
Compaq also will announce a second-generation version of its 1.75-inch, two-processor DL-360 server, a pizza box-size, rack-mountable system. The new DL360 includes a special-purpose management chip that lets administrators control it remotely more easily. The chip takes the place of a separate add-in card, but customers will have to pay extra to enable more than a basic set of features, Compaq said.