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Racking Up Server Density

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Rackable Systems, the high-density system designer for data centers and Internet service providers, announced five new servers, ranging in size from 2U units to a 9U unit that goes in its shipping container-sized mobile data center.

Rackable Systems unveiled five new systems that bring more power to the same footprint. How? By offering local storage and processing in the same rack.

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The new designs deliver up to twice the density of existing Rackable Systems servers in the same physical footprint, while also reducing power consumption. The server focus on increasing local storage and compute density, rather than depending on attached storage or moving data around to process it.

Despite the increased density, Rackable specifically stressed power efficiencies as a major plus. “Our number one power claim is ecological,” Geoff Noer, senior director of product marketing for Rackable told “It’s leveraging everything we’ve learned and leveraging power efficiencies and a number of components across servers.”

The new racks combine multiple server boards per enclosure, thus increasing capacity, and use low-power Intel and AMD processors to help keep the power draw down. One of the blades, the XE2208, is optimized for the ICE Cube, Rackable’s data center in a shipping container similar to Sun’s BlackBox.

The five blades all uses dual- and quad-core Intel Xeon 5100, 5200, 5300 and 5400 series processors. In addition, the XE2006-F1 server supports dual- and quad-core AMD Opteron 2200 and 2300 processors.

The smallest unit, the XE2004-SC1, is a 2U design with room for 4 processors and 4 hot-swappable 3.5-inch drives, allowing for up to 4TB of storage. The high-end of the 2U units is the XE2208-SC1, optimized specifically for ICE Cube modular data centers, with four sockets and eight drive slots.

In addition, there is the Scale Out Blade ST2000, a 9U rack and the highest-density rack the company has ever offered. It supports three power modules and 12 dual socket modules, for 21 cores per U and 11TB of storage per U.

This will enable Rackable to double its capacity in all units. The ICE Cube, for example, will go from 1,400 servers to 2,800 servers in the same size unit.

James Staten, principal analyst with Forrester Research, said the refresh of the Rackable line is not unexpected but it is a good upgrade for Rackable’s customers.

Helping Web Giants

“They definitely have a strong story for their main customer base, the large Web giants, in that they are continuing to lead on compute density,” he said in an e-mail to “For their target market, they continue to satisfy that market well and lead their competitors on design for density. This is serious density.”

Rackable uses all 3.5-inch drives, whereas most blade systems use 2.5-inch drives. Noer said this was a major advantage in Rackable’s favor because 2.5-inch drives simply don’t have the capacity of their bigger brothers. A 2.5-inch drive is usually around 160GB, although Western Digital does have a 320GB unit, the $200 Scorpio. A 1TB 3.5-inch SATA drive can go as low as $160.

Although blades are all the rage, Rackable is not feeling any pressure, said Noer. “We’ve always been about the embracing of commodity infrastructure and delivering that in a power efficient way,” he said. “We’re not new to this space. Rackable has been a leader in this market since the beginning. The local storage and compute density and power efficiency are the main story here.”

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