IBM has produced a low-power blade server based on Intel's Xeon processor. The new server will tackle the heat and power issues associated with running compact blade servers.

At the same time, Big Blue announced network and storage switches for its BladeCenter products to improve their integration into data centres.

One of the biggest hurdles for putting blade servers into data centres is that thet use more power and generate more heat in smaller spaces than typical rack-dense servers. All systems vendors havelooked at ways to keep the systems cool, including on-server fans.

But IBM says it is the first to offer a blade server powered by Intel's low-voltage processor, codenamed Nocona. Nocona reduces power consumption by 50 watts per processor. When included in IBM's dual-processor HS20 blades that add up to 1.5 kilowatts per BladeCenter chassis, the company said.

With the low-voltage Nocona processor, which also includes Intel's 64-bit extension technology so that both 32 and 64-bit applications can run on the server, customers will get full performance with lower power and cooling demands, according to IBM.

IBM's HS20 blade servers with Nocona will be available at the end of February. The HS20 with 2.8-GHz Nocona processors will start at $2,189. A 3.6-GHz model will start at $3,229.

To make it easier to integrate blades into existing infrastructures, IBM announced that both Nortel and storage specialist Emulex are releasing products designed specifically for BladeCenter.

Nortel's Layer 2/3 switch is the second product to come out of a 2003 partnership between Nortel and IBM. The first product was a Layer 2-7 switch for BladeCenter. The new Nortel Layer 2/3 copper and fibre Gigabit Ethernet switching modules are expected later this month. The switch will connect to the blade servers via 14 Gigabit Ethernet ports in the chassis, and provide six links to outside networks. Up to four switches can be hot-plugged into the chassis without disrupting workloads. The Layer 2/3 copper switch module starts at $2,299 and the fiber module starts at $3,999.

Meanwhile, Emulex announced a Fibre Channel Host Bus Adapter designed specifically for use within BladeCenter Windows and Linux environments. Emulex says the LP1005DC is fully compatible with its entire line of HBAs and will begin shipping in the next couple of months.

IBM opened the hardware specifications to BladeCenter in autumn, and Emulex is one of more than 150 companies developing products based on the specs.