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Fujitsu Bets on Third-Generation Blades

Fujitsu is looking to make a name for itself as a stand-alone vendor, not as a partner of Siemens or Sun Microsystems, with its new Primergy BX900 blade system, a blade enclosure it calls the "Dynamic Cube."

The new blade enclosure offers computing blades, storage, networking, and management software in a single offering. It's not exactly a revolutionary idea: Cisco's Unified Computing System (UCS), Sun's (NASDAQ: JAVA) new Open Network Systems, and blades from HP and IBM follow a similar path.

Fujitsu is not a major player in the U.S., but it aims to be. It's usually fifth on the quarterly server tracking lists, well below the aforementioned vendors. Most of its products are SPARC-based, as Fujitsu has been a licensee of Sun's microprocessors for 20 years. But this is something new.

It came out with its BX300 blade system in 2001, and they went nowhere. In 2004, it came out with the BX600. With this new BX900 series of Intel Xeon 5500-based blades, Fujitsu hopes to take sales from the 200,000 units per year range to 500,000 by next year.

"From a market share standpoint, Fujitsu is a small player compared to other players," Manuel Martull, senior director of server marketing at Fujitsu told InternetNews.com. "But in our mind, we have a superior product, so our task will be to bring more brand awareness as an x86 server vendor."

The Dynamic Cube is a ten-unit chassis that can hold up to 18 blades. Each BX920 blade server holds two Xeon 5500 processors and up to 144GB of memory in 18 sockets. Through a custom networking midplane, the setup can handle up to 6.4 terabits of bandwidth between server blades.

The enclosures also support 10 Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel links through eight bays for connection to the blades. Fujitsu will add support for InfiniBand and eventually 40Gbit Ethernet, it said.

"We future-proofed the chassis as much as possible," said John Howell, senior product marketing manager at Fujitsu. "We like to think that we have a lot of bandwidth and capability. UCS might be bandwidth-limited because Fibre Channel over Ethernet has some overhead. Cisco should be congratulated for its vision, but we wanted to provide something more proven."

In addition to the hardware, the solution provides ServerView Resource Coordinator VE management software to automate the management of both virtual and physical servers and manage both Fujitsu and non-Fujitsu hardware. It will support racks from Dell, HP and IBM.

Martull claims the Dynamic Cube is 30 percent more energy efficient, despite housing more blades in the same space than the big name vendors, thanks to its design.

"The air intake is higher and we optimized it in a way that blade enclosures behave like a screen door with easy air flow, without requiring power hungry fans," he said

Fujitsu is taking orders now and plans to begin delivering systems on the 25th. Starting price is just under $11,000.