Three months after opening up the specifications for its blade server architecture,

IBM

(IBM) - Get Report

showcased a handful of companies Friday that are developing new products using the information.

IBM noted that more than 100 companies have taken advantage of the free and open access to the design specifications of IBM's eServer BladeCenter -- the architecture for IBM's blade servers. Those companies include

Emulex

(ELX)

and privately held

Ranch Networks

and

Tarari

.

Because IBM opened up its specs, Emulex, for instance, has been able to more quickly develop customized host bus adapters, a key component of storage networks, specifically for IBM's architecture than it would have been able to under a closed system, said Mike Smith, executive vice president of worldwide marketing for Emulex. The company plans to begin selling the product in the first quarter of 2005.

Under a closed system, a company with Emulex's timeline tends to be more under the control of the hardware maker because the hardware maker often tests the new product on its architecture -- rather than Emulex handling that role, Smith explained.

Of course, faster availability of more products for its blade architecture can only help Big Blue, which already is the

leader in the blade server market. Blade servers are basically a compact server contained on a single circuit board that shares a power supply and other components with additional blade servers in the same chassis. IBM's product is called BladeCenter.

Blades are the fastest-growing segment of the server market -- expected by research firm IDC to reach $8 billion in 2008 -- and viewed as a strategically vital area for the largest hardware vendors.

Hewlett-Packard

(HPQ) - Get Report

was the first big server maker to unveil blade servers in 2002, but the company's lead position in the market was overtaken by IBM in 2003.