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Rackable makes x86 SMP charge

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SC05 Rackable Systems – the little server start-up that could – is shipping a new SMP-like system and a fresh line of "green computing" gear.

If you're looking for flash, then Rackable won't be your vendor of choice. The company makes plain, thin gear and does well in the cluster market. So far, it has ridden a solid Opteron-based server line to healthy sales and a successful IPO.

The blandness of Rackable's gear is evident with the new C5100-SMP server. It's a basic, black box with relatively dumb (Layer 2) Infiniband networking and modest packaging gains. The 5U system holds an 8-way server with support for up to 32GB of memory. Instead of using a single motherboard, the C5100 links four two-way systems. What makes it special is software from start-up ScaleMP. The software allows customers to run a single operating system across all of the servers with shared memory. Think VMware in reverse.

The SMP system is available now at a starting price of $69,000. Rackable plans to offer up dual-core chips and a 16-way version of the box in the coming months.

The system joins a growing list of x86 SMP approaches – the most notable of which comes from newcomer Fabric7. Once again, Rackable's system is very basic and doesn't offer the sophisticated networking tools you'll find from other start-ups. It's also hard to imagine how well the system will stack up against pure 8-socket boards from the likes of Sun Microsystems and Asian suppliers.

Rackable, however, has made a name with its no frills approach and customers may want to pick up the 8-way SMP in the near-term instead of waiting for Sun and others to get their acts together.

On the green computing front, Rackable has started touting the C2002 High Efficiency Series of systems that use DC power in combination with both dual-core Opteron and Xeon processors. Rackable has seen particular power gains with the low-voltage version of Opteron.

"The C2002's high efficiency is achieved by using rack-level DC power distribution, passive heat sinks to further increase server reliability, a unique cooling system designed to draw minimal power and dual-core processors for maximum performance," Rackable said. "C2002 servers are designed in Rackable Systems' trademark half-depth form factor, enabling back-to-back rack mounting for high density, optimal serviceability and more efficient cooling."

The low-power push is similar to what many servers vendors have started touting now that performance per watt has become a major concern for customers.

Along with the new hardware, Rackable and AMD celebrated a cluster that ranks 323 on the latest list of the Top500 supercomputers. The box sits in AMD's test lab and combines 144 servers. Rackable has become one of the leading sellers of Opteron-based systems and was showcased at the AMD booth here at the Supercomputing event.

Rackable has enjoyed a major rise in its share price since a June IPO. Shares started out at $12 and now sit at $19.43 at the time of writing. ®

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