Aliens have landed

Hivemind rack-mountable servers

Is the above too obvious a headline for news that high-end computer vendor Alienware Inc. just opened a Washington office to serve the government? Well, they did. And the Miami company also just branched out into server sales. It's all part of an interesting transformation for a PC business that made its name building some of the best gaming systems on the market.

Arthur Lewis, vice president of Alienware's government division, told GCN the company got into the market after requests from several agencies for custom-built, high-performance desktop PCs. But couldn't a company like Dell Inc. do the same thing? 'They are not innovators and market leaders. We're geared toward early adopters,' Lewis said. His contention is that big PC vendors don't see enough demand for high-end systems to justify pushing them.

Alienware's systems use off-the-shelf parts, including CPUs from Intel Corp. and Advanced Micro Devices Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. The company also uses advanced off-the-shelf components, such as high-end graphics accelerators, and does significant design work in areas such as system cooling. Lewis said the company has sold systems to the Defense Department, FBI and intelligence community. Several integrators, including Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. are also Alienware users. Many use the systems for high-end visualization in lieu of pricey workstations.

But surely Dell can do just as good a job providing servers as Alienware? The latter's new line of Hivemind rack-mountable servers are composed of Intel chassis, motherboards, chip sets and 64-bit Xeon processors'but nothing necessarily sets them apart from other servers. Lewis said the Hivemind line was a response to customers who wanted to buy visualization systems and the supporting server infrastructure from one source. At the very least, they get servers with the cool Alienware logo on them.

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