CRN Interview: Doug Erwin, RLX Technologies

RLX Technologies became an early Blade Server specialist by using low-power Transmeta processors. The company, however, has seen its market leadership overtaken by standard server vendors even as it has moved to embrace the Intel platform. Doug Erwin, who took over as president, CEO and chairman OF RLX last month, talked about his company's prospects with Senior Editor Joseph F. Kovar.

CRN: Where is RLX in terms of volume and revenue?

Erwin: If you take a look at the top six or seven players, we're probably at the bottom 25 percent. Last year, we had 35 percent of the market share. But you see IBM and [Hewlett-Packard] coming on real strong with their channel play. When you have the kind of channel power that IBM and HP have, they quickly dominate the share piece of it. However, I think the game is far from over. The game is going to be played in this market by who is setting the standard and who is going to be the thought leader.

CRN: You said that HP and IBM, because of their channels, were really able to come on strong last year. Could you talk a little bit about RLX's channels and how they're changing?

Erwin: Our channels are still in their infancy. We've got probably 24 channel partners signed up. We hope to end the year with 100-plus. We're not interested in going out and signing up anybody. We're going out and trying to sign up people who we think are probably most exposed from the standpoint of this change that's going on in the market. Probably the biggest benefit we bring to the table vs. our competitors today is that we're not looking at this as a hardware play. This is not a blade play. That just happens to be the hardware that our software runs on. This is a systems play,make no mistake. It is a modular computing play.

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CRN: You said you plan to have about 100 channel partners by the end of the year. What's in it for the solution providers?

Erwin: The ability to sell a lot more hardware and software and increase their revenue. I think they'll find that the training and the hand-holding and the support they have to give to their end users with our technology will be far less [than with other vendors], and yet they can sell it for roughly the same price.

CRN: As you look at the blade server market in the year 2003, what are some of the technologies you're looking at?

Erwin: There are three major enhancements you will be seeing on the hardware side from us. One, we will be ready to capitalize on Intel's new processors when they ship. You'll see a boost in processor power immediately.

The second thing we're going to deliver in the late summer will be InfiniBand. It's really the first step you gotta have in order to move to modular computing or virtual clustering. And the third technology addition you're going to see from us is the delivery in the fall time frame of a Fibre Channel connector.

From the software side, you'll see new features on our Control Tower [XT, RLX's blade server provisioning and management solution] that will give customers the opportunity to begin to manage [heterogeneous] modular computing or clustering. We call that Virtualization VIC, and that's what we'll be delivering in the next few weeks. [VIC stands for] virtualization in clustering.