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Vapor Building an Open Compute Server Chamber

By Sean Michael Kerner (Send Email)
Posted March 16, 2015

Since 2011, the Open Compute Project (OCP) has been building and proposing specifications to enable new classes of servers and data center gear. Cole Crawford has been a key figure in OCP, serving as the group's Chief Operating Officer from 2012 to 2013 and as an executive director from 2013 to this month. Crawford is now taking his OCP experience and funneling it into a startup called Vapor.

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Vapor has a new data center server system called the Vapor Chamber, which in some respects resembles the Vapor Chamber look of the new Apple Mac Pro. Instead of a single system like the Mac Pro, though, the Vapor Chamber fits six racks of servers. While the Mac Pro is Apple technology built with a variety of proprietary technologies, the idea behind the Vapor Chamber is to leverage open standards from the OCP.

"It's not really intentional that the Vapor Chamber looks like a Mac Pro, but I guess it kind of does," Coleman told ServerWatch.

Coleman explained that a lot of the components that go into a modern data center are capital intensive to handle increasing power and cooling requirements.

"The Vapor Chamber takes all of the goodness that has come out of Open Compute and collapses it into a hyper-collapsed data center," Coleman said.

The Vapor Chamber has a diameter of nine feet, and it can fit six server racks and up to 150 kilowatts. The rectifier, Power Distribution Units, batteries and fire suppression features are all integrated in the Chamber. Coleman said that in a typical data center the hot air is often collapsed into a hot aisle. A Vapor Chamber includes six server racks that all face the middle of the chamber, known as the hot column.

"We built the Chamber in such a way that you can use the entirely of the rack for infrastructure compute, storage and memory nodes, thereby eliminating the need for things like power shelves that sit in the actual racks," Coleman said.

From a density perspective, while a 10,000 square foot data center leveraging a hot aisle/cold aisle approach can achieve 4 Megawatts of deployment, a Vapor Chamber can hit 5 Megawatts, according to Coleman.

"If real estate matters, a data center can be more dense deploying Vapor Chamber than the traditional hot aisle, cold aisle approach," Coleman said.

In terms of OCP standards, one of the key specifications that is being leveraged in the Vapor Chamber is the Open Rack specification. The Open Rack specification was first proposed in May of 2012. Traditionally, server racks have been 9 inches in width, fitting into racks that have an outer dimension of 24 inches. With Open Rack the interior server width is only 21 inches.

"Vapor Chamber is 100 percent Open Rack; you can't do Chamber without some of the innovations that Open Rack introduced," Coleman said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at ServerWatch and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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