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Verari noses HP, IBM with third gen blades

It's cooler on the botttom

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While Hewlett-Packard and IBM have the lion's share of commercial blade server sales in the world, there are a number of other players hanging on in the space, trying to stay ahead of the crushing marketing force of Big Gray and Big Blue with technology innovation and playing to niches. One of the niche players, San Diego-based Verari Systems, has just updated its blade boxes to have a stronger appeal to enterprise customers.

Most makers of commercial blade servers think of blade servers in terms of filling a chassis of from 7U to 10U in size inside a rack. But Verari and its niche blade provider compatriot, Egenera, have thought of blade systems starting at the rack level and then engineered the resulting blade architecture to make the most of the space inside a rack.

What makes Verari somewhat unique from other players in the blade space, says company co-founder and chief technology officer, David Driggers, is that Verari (once known by the name RackSaver) has always made its blade servers from common, off-the-shelf components, not specially shrunk motherboards, switches, and such - and it has still been able to deliver the kinds of densities that have allowed the company to build a blade business that rakes in more than $100 million a year. (How much more than $100 million, Driggers is not saying, and Verari is privately held, so we can't make them tell us).

While HP got into blades around the turn of the millennium and IBM followed a few years later, Verari has had three generations of blade designs to HP's and IBM's two. The launch of the BladeRack E-Class racks completes the roll out of the third generation of gear.

Cooling from the Bottom

Verari was founded in 1991 and sells rack servers as well, but blades are what people go to the company for these days. As in years gone by, Driggers says that the company's blades still use standard motherboards, full height memory DIMMs, 3.5-inch disks, and other full-sized components, and it uses engineering to get the kinds of densities that customers will pay Verari from.

The big innovation, of course, is to not do the back-to-front cooling that rack servers use, but to do what mainframes have always done, which is think bottom-to-top when it comes to cooling. So, Verari's BladeRack racks pull cool air from the bottom of the rack (where the cool air is near the floor anyway) and suck it up through the electronic components and vent it out the top of the rack (where warmed air wants to go anyway).

With the current generation of BladeRack 2 products, the company has split its racks into high-end and low-end products rather than have a single product line, as it had in the XT generation. The XL-Class of racks, launched in February of this year, comes with a 208-400 volt AC power distribution system and packs up to 72 blades in the rack (144 blades per rack is possible using half-width motherboards), for a maximum of 576 processor cores using quad-core X64 chips and up to 672 disks per rack.

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