IBM is to announce plans to add a third member to its BladeCenter family of high-density blade servers. The Xeon-based BladeCenter HS40 will be the first 4-way blade system released by the company.

Based on Intel Corp.'s 2.8GHz Xeon MP processors, the HS40 will be about twice the thickness of the IBM's dual-processor HS20. It will also have more memory, said Tim Dougherty, IBM's director of blade strategy.

"It's got 8 DIMM (dual in-line memory module) slots, so you should be able to get (16Gbytes) of memory on it," he said.

Although IBM is about a year behind rival Hewlett-Packard in unveiling a 4-way blade, it has been worth the wait because IBM's servers can be packed more densely than can HP's 4-way BL40p systems, Dougherty said.

IBM's new servers will slide into the same 7U (31.1 cm) BladeCenter Chassis used for the HS20, which can hold as many as seven HS40 or 14 HS20 blades.

A 6U (26.7 cm) enclosure can hold two of HP's BL40p servers, according to materials on HP's Web site.

IBM put the HS40 into beta tests with a select number of customers in December and will begin shipping the HS40 on 13 February, Dougherty said.

The company also ships a dual-processor blade based on its Power4 microprocessor, called the JS20, and is considering the possibility of shipping a 4-way Power4 system, said Dougherty, who declined to give specific details on IBM's future product plans.

The HS40 will ship with either Microsoft Windows 2000 Server or Linux. Pricing for the new systems was not available at press time.