Intel's blades slice Transmeta's server party

But Chipzilla had answer all along

Intel wants to spoil the coming out party of Transmeta server start-up RLX.

According to Linuxgram, RLX has lined up an announcement for Tuesday detailing a 336-way server in a 42U cabinet. That's eight per 1U board (one U is 1.75 inches of rack space - as several of you have pointed out - the standard measurement for rack mount servers). Which is indeed pretty dense: the standard now is one CPU per 1U board. Linuxgram has plenty of detail on the new RLX box here and observes that Intel doesn't have an answer yet.

Be that as it may, but that isn't going to stop Chipzilla announcing one today, according to the FT. Compaq, still smarting from the departure of Gary Stimac and other engineers from its server team who left to found RLX (Q sued, but the two have settled) has been enrolled as primo assembler. [Shouldn't that be "strategic OEM partner" - ed.]

The Compaq "ultradense" server will use QuickBlade boards based on mobile processors manufactured using 0.13 micron technology. (Chipzilla hasn't given process technology a code name before, but people like code names very much, so Intel has given it a very silly one.) Tualatin is officially a mid-year event, but it will take longer to produce the support for the blades.

The FT describes the ultradense market as "rapidly growing", which may be a tad premature, as it doesn't really exist yet. Statements like that produce a divide-by-zero error on our bullshit calculator. But give it a chance, as web hosting facilities charge by floorspace and in some parts of the world (we can't think where, but excuse us - we think we left the light on in the bathroom), energy costs have risen sharply. And 500-CPU server configurations soak up a lot of juice.

RLX isn't alone. Rather well less known is Transmeta's near neighbour FiberCycle. The Los Gatos start-up was first out of the gate, promising 504 Transmeta Crusoe CPUs in a 2m rack in kit due to ship this fall.

Of course Intel's 'response' need not be a response at all. Intel's dense servers could be in line for an OAP bus pass by now, if only Chipzilla had realized the potential of its StrongARM (now XScale) acquisition a little earlier. XScale is firmly earmarked for network equipment or for mobile devices, for which it was originally devised. But we've seen sweet Beowulf style clusters that take up very little space indeed, and what's lost in x86 compatibility is gained - almost - by having a native Linux port for the chip. StrongARM isn't SMP-capable, but then neither are the Transmeta dense servers. They simply don't need to be. ®

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