Venture capitalists have pumped US$1 billion into new companies belonging to Blade.org, a blade server industry group backed by IBM.

Blade.org includes 100 companies (mainly from the US), that sell processors, software, networking equipment and other blade server technology. Member companies collaborate on product and market development and in setting standards for interoperability of various blade-related products.

Walden International, a global venture capital firm, has invested $100 million in startups or early-stage companies that are part of Blade.org, said Andrew Kau, managing director of Walden USA. Large vendors such as IBM can't provide all the components of technology and need to nurture small, innovative companies whose technology meshes with IBM's to serve a customer, Kau said.

Walden, which is a member of Blade.org, is more likely to invest in startups working in this kind of collaborative environment than in others, he said.

The blade server platform is the fastest-growing segment of the server market and is expected to account for 10 percent of global server unit sales in 2007, according to IDC. The segment will generate $11 billion in revenue by 2010, IDC said.

Blade.org member firms collaborated to design and install a video surveillance system that runs on blade servers at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, which houses 16,000 Asian artefacts. Partners included Avnet, a system integrator; DataCom Systems, a provider of video surveillance management software; Blade Network Technologies, a maker of Ethernet switches; and IBM.

Although the organization is built around IBM's BladeCenter product line, other server manufacturers are members. However, they don't include IBM's major competitors, Hewlett-Packard, Dell or Sun. "They have chosen not to join," said Douglas Balog, vice president of IBM's BladeCenter line and chairman of Blade.org.

Even though IBM spearheaded Blade.org, not all members are even working with the company. They can also collaborate with each other on approaches to the market that don't involve IBM. "It's not about a one-to-one relationship with IBM, its about many-to-many relationships," Balog said.

Blade.org's goal is to expand the number of technology solutions created through collaboration to 3,000 from 30 today, to expand membership into Europe and the Asia-Pacific region and to create an advisory panel made up of customers, Balog said.