RLX Battles for Control With Automated Blades

By Ben Freeman (Send Email)
Posted Jun 14, 2004


Blade pioneer RLX Technologies Monday announced the forthcoming release of Control Tower 6G, the latest iteration of its robust server management suite.

RLX Technologies Monday offered a glimpse of the soon-to-be-released Control Tower 6G, the latest iteration of its server management suite. The new version automates the blades via three software modules.

The previous version of Control Tower empowered the monitoring and installation of RLX blades and interface-equipped 1U servers with a convenient GUI. It also allowed multiple machines to be allocated for identical tasks.

The new Control Tower 6G extends this manageability by adding automation to the mix, with new Automation Policy Manager, Automatic Sparing Manager, and Workload Inspector modules.

Designed to dramatically reduce the number of needed management personnel, Automation Policy Manager provides a GUI and command line interface for an administrator to delineate which items from a pool of roughly 60 predefined or other customizable infrastructure conditions will trigger unattended "on-demand compute" actions

"The Automation Policy Manager allows our customers to use the resources required by an application on an as-needed basis, and do it in a lights-out fashion," Tejas Vakil, vice president of worldwide marketing for RLX, told ServerWatch, "as opposed to manually going in and changing server infrastructure configuration."

RLX Vice President of Engineering Scott Ferrand, described a system's hard drive going belly up as an example of this. In such a case, that system's functionality can be replaced by another's without admin intervention. Or, if a machine nears its processor usage ceiling at peak load times, additional servers can be allocated to its task.

The Control Tower 6G's Automatic Sparing Manager maintains the pool of unused or low-priority "spare" systems needed for such failover deployments, ensuring that new servers take on the same identity and old storage connections as the machines they replace.

The Workload Inspector monitors the L3-L7 stack, including TCP, HTTP and LDAP traffic, to act as the wary eyes and ears of the Automation Policy Manager. For example, Ferrand said, Workload Inspector might be set to ping a critical machine at specific time intervals, and in the event of failure, bring another online and image it to replace it.

Additionally, the new Control Tower bolsters the functionality found in the current version, with a simplified GUI, predefined workflows to streamline blade provisioning, and extended storage connectivity management functionality to encompass NAS, SAN, and DAS offerings. Control Tower 6G also adds RAID capability to the Control Tower itself.

Widely acknowledged as first to market with blades in 2001, RLX has used its extensive experience to develop leading-edge manageability in what Ferrand deems a 12- to 24-month lead on competitive offerings. "RLX, the blade pioneer, enables on-demand scale out computing today by delivering the industry's best managed rack-dense servers," Ferrand said.

Although he praises RLX's market flexibility and blade pioneer status, Illuminata Senior Analyst Gordon Haff sees the vendor's work cut out for it in its competition with Goliaths like HP and IBM in the blade space. "RLX was never able to truly leverage their early-to-market strength into a strong volume and company position," he said. "Now they face the prospect of losing out on sales to much better capitalized vendors with many more resources than they have."

But when asked if HP and IBM's market size presents a challenge, Ferrand scoffs, "for them." A smaller vendor, he asserts, is capable of being more nimble and more "Johnny on-the-spot" when addressing customer needs than behemoth vendors.

The Control Tower 6G will be released in July. At that time, RLX plans to offer "an attractive migration package" to current customers.

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