IBM will start shipping upgraded models of its HS20 and JS20 blade servers from the end of the month, including a new SCSI option that will double the number of SCSI blades that users can fit into a single chassis. New management software will also make them cooler and easier to manage.

Five new dual-processor models of the HS20 will ship with an updated version of the 64-bit-capable Xeon processor, codenamed Nocona. With the new models, customers will now be able to include SCSI-based hard drives in the blade systems themselves, rather than by attaching a separate storage component, called a "sidecar" to the blade. With the new configuration, IBM's BladeCenter will be able to house 14 HS20's - twice as many as it can hold when configured with sidecars.

The processors on the new HS20s will come with clock speeds ranging from 2.8GHz to 3.6GHz, and a faster, 800MHz front-side bus, said Tim Dougherty, director of IBM eServer BladeCenter.

They will also include new power management software, called PowerExecutive, that will take advantage of Intel's SpeedStep technology to give customers the option of slowing down the processor clock speed on blades that are demanding excessive amounts of power.

PowerExecutive "goes out and calculates all the power that's going to be drawn for the blade center," Dougherty said. "It also tells you who are the power hogs for that group. It'll lower the performance that they're getting, but at least they'll stay up."

Customers are still beginning to understand how to manage the heat generated by blade systems, which pack a much larger number of processors into a smaller space than conventional servers, said Jon Enck, Gartner's server and directory services analyst. "Trying to figure out how to integrate them into the data center is often challenging," he said. "Any relief that the vendors can provide in this area is always helpful to clients."

PowerExecutive will be available for the new HS20 systems, available from 12 November. The software will be ported to the JS20 in early 2005, Dougherty said.

IBM's upgraded version of its Power-based JS20 blade server, with a 2.2GHz processor, will go on sale from 29 October. The JS20 will now support IBM's AIX 5L V5.2 operating system in addition to Linux. The JS20 uses the same PowerPC 970 processor that Apple uses in its Power Mac G5 computers.

Last month, IBM opened up the specs for BladeCenter in an effort to encourage hardware vendors to build components for the platform. So far, the company has signed up 49 component vendors including Emulex, Ranch Networks and Aarohi.

Though IBM's BladeCenter efforts have been portrayed as an attempt to create an open blade standard, Dougherty said that this is not the intent. "We're not off here trying to create a standard. What we're trying to do here is open up the specification so more people can play in the ecosystem," he said.