ITWorks: Building Its Own Blade Servers Becomes A New Business


ITWorks is coming to market with a custom-built blade server family that stems from its parent company's search for a better way to build weather maps for the broadcasting industry.

Chico, Calif.-based ITWorks builds blade servers based on Intel Xeon or Atom or on Via processors -- and even bends its own sheet metal -- on a custom basis for customers looking to move away from the proprietary blade servers sold by most manufacturers.

ITWorks got its start as a group of technicians within IntelliWeather, a developer of technology that provides broadcasters and others with live weather map images, said Anthony Watts, founder and owner.

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IntelliWeather was looking for a way to cut server-related power costs, which for the 50-plus servers it was running cost up to $3,000 a month, and decided to try its hand at building its own servers, Watts said.

"The chassis and blades were designed by us to solve our own problems," he said. "But they worked so well, we turned them into products we could sell. We've been using our own blades for years. This is 'Mark 4.' We just decided it's ready to sell to other customers."

ITWorks has been selling its blade servers direct. However, Watts said, the company is looking for distributors and systems integrators interested in its product line.

Initially, ITWorks explored using blade servers from Dell, Hewlett-Packard and other name-brand vendors but decided it did not want to be tied to proprietary chasses and blades, Watts said. For instance, with most vendors, an upgrade in blade chassis means it's time to buy new server blades as well, he said.

A primary goal was to build those blades and their chasses using no proprietary components. "If a broadcaster is broadcasting the weather at 3:00 a.m., and a server power supply blows up, we want them to be able to run to Wal-Mart and get a new power supply," he said.

Another goal was to give customers the opportunity to mix and match servers in a chassis according to their requirements, Watts said.

"Blades today from most server vendors are homogeneous," he said. "You buy a Dell chassis, and all the blades inside look pretty much the same. But our customers have varying workloads. It makes no sense to use the latest Intel quad-core Xeon processors for downloading satellite data. So we can have a quad-core Xeon blade sitting next to a Via-based or an Intel Atom-based blade which is running some mundane task."

NEXT: Building Nonproprietary Blade Servers