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Rackable stays horizontal with x64 servers

Now with more density

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According to Geoffrey Noer, vice president of product management at Rackable, the typical 1U rack-mounted x64 server has two PCI slots and sometimes only one, and usually only has room for four disk drives. The move toward low profile peripheral cards - such as Ethernet NICs, RAID disk controllers, and host bus adapters - has helped Rackable's cause. These items were once exotic, but are becoming more widely available if not yet standard. To get similar feature density in the past, Noer says Rackable would have had to sell a company its C3000 3U half-depth rack server.

The C2005 is a two-socket machine that supports motherboards for both Intel Xeon and Advanced Micro Devices Opteron processors. While Rackable supports the full line of Intel and AMD chips, Noer says that the vast majority of its customers - who are very keen on low power and high density - buy Xeon LV or Opteron HE low-voltage parts. They are willing to sacrifice a little bit of performance for a lot of power and cooling reduction. Customers can use dual-core or quad-core x64 processors from either Intel or AMD, but they obviously have different motherboards.

The Foundation Series racks that are used for the half-depth servers allow 44 C2005s to be put into a single rack (that's both front and back filled), for a total of 352 x64 cores in a single rack. A normal 1U, two-socket server can have 42 servers in a rack, for a total of 336 cores, and that is only if you don't have to leave space between the machines for cooling (as you often do with rack-mounted servers). And the peripheral options on these 1U machines are limited, too. And while IBM can cram 448 processor cores into its BladeCenter H chassis, such a dense setup has minimal storage (two drives per blade) and again it assumes you don't have to space boxes out to keep from overheating.

HP's c7000 chassis can support up to 16 half-height or 8 full height blades, for a total of 512 processors maximum either way, but you have the same issues about not having much local storage and having blades packed very tightly and creating a lot of heat. Of course, this is exactly why low-voltage parts are popular among Rackable's customers. The fact is, if IBM and HP blade customers want to add a reasonable amount of storage to their blades, they have to rip out about half the blades in the boxes and buy storage modules that link to the blades. (You cannot change the laws of physics, Captain . . . .)

Like prior generations of Rackable servers, the C2005 machine offers both AC and DC power supplies. The AC power supplies are rated as high as 92.5 per cent efficiency, and the DC power supplies are rated as high as 96.5 per cent.

Rackable already sells a line of 1U, half-depth servers, the C1000s, and the above-mentioned C3000, which are 3U high. Rackable is not, by the way, against traditional rack servers. The company's four-socket Opteron and Xeon servers, the H series, are full-depth machines.

The one thing Rackable doesn't have is a list price, says Noer. Every deal is custom bid and made-to-order, which the company somehow - and quite wrongly - believes makes Rackable exempt from having to tell people what it costs to buy its gear. So even if Rackable has a density advantage, it is hard to say if it has a price/performance advantage compared to blades and in-chassis disk modules or standard rack servers. ®

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