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RLX Plots New Blade Approach

UPDATED: Faced with stiff competition from server vendor giants like IBM and HP , RLX Technologies will stop selling blade servers and focus instead on selling software to manage blades.

RLX will continue to provide hardware support to its existing customers and hardware warranties will be honored, said Scott Farrand, vice president of software engineering at RLX.

Though he declined to provide a specific number, Farrand told internetnews.com RLX has let about one third of the staff go, with cuts coming in the company's hardware design division. RLX will also close its hardware design center in Hillsboro, Ore., and retain its Woodland Hills, Texas, headquarters.

RLX will focus on selling its flagship Control Tower software suite for all major blade and server platforms, including rivals IBM, HP and Dell . The suite provides on-the-fly server monitoring, alerting, provisioning and policy automation.

"Customers who had enjoyed Control Tower on the RLX hardware wanted us to move that to other equipment in their shop," Farrand said. "That combined with the challenges in competing in this maturing market have led us to this new business decision."

Blades are modular servers that require fewer cables, as well as less power and space, making them attractive for enterprises with fewer resources. These characteristics also make them more convenient for utility computing environments, where customers press a few buttons to procure more computing resources, paying as they go.

Customers have voiced their concerns about a lack of common server management tools, paving the way for RLX to make inroads with its Control Tower platform. Farrand said RLX's value proposition is that it will treat all devices in a data center as if they are the same, a departure from the strategies of most hardware and software vendors.

"Typically, system vendor strategies is to do a little better job on your own stuff, if you do the others at all," Farrand said, referring to vendors who fear designing technology that supports competing systems. "We know this first hand in that this previously was our strategy."

A heterogeneous management framework is important in blade server environments, tethering together products from different vendors. Common management remains one of the barriers to adoption in the server world, as customers are loathe to shell out for products if they are not sure they will work with the existing hardware in their data centers.

Control Tower RLX will be working with original equipment manufacturers and server customers to provide the Control Tower management suite.

Founded by former Compaq executives, RLX is widely credited as the first blade server vendor. But in the last few years, major server vendors like IBM, HP, Dell and Sun Microsystems have poured their resources into the blade market, making it difficult for smaller vendors to compete.

IBM is the reigning blade market leader, with a 44.2 percent share, according to statistics from IDC. HP follows with 32 percent. The research firm said blade servers accounted for $287 million in the third quarter.