Rackable does cookie sheet servers
A Google homage
The decade long wait for toplessness
That it has taken a decade for server vendors to go topless inside the racks is a bit of a mystery, but we have to take progress where we get it. It must be far easier to ship a rack server that is encased in steel, since a server's delicate parts are not exposed, but the 50 per cent reduction in rack weight that the CloudRack line offers compared to standard rack servers also results in something else: lower shipping costs. And the 20 per cent or so lower power usage compared to standard 2U rack servers with two-sockets per server is also important to prospective clients.
The CloudRack trays can be equipped with two different kinds of servers, and two different processor options for each. One motherboard is based on a standard EATX (12 inches by 13 inches) form factor. This EATX board comes in one flavor that supports Advanced Micro Devices' dual-core Opteron 2200 HE or quad-core Opteron 2300 HE processors, which have a 68-watt thermal design point, and another one that is based on Intel's dual-core Xeon 5200 LV or quad-core 5400 LV processors (which are low-voltage 50-watt parts).
These EATX boards support up to 128 GB of main memory and have dual Gigabit Ethernet ports. Or, for maximum core density, Rackable can put two 7-inch by 13-inch "Mini-SSI" motherboards (that term is not an industry term yet, but rather one Rackable has made up) that come in Xeon or Opteron flavors. The Mini-SSI boards support the same Xeon LV or Opteron HE processors and offer up to 48 GB of memory with the Xeons and up to 64 GB with the Opterons.
The trays also come with local storage for the servers, up to eight 3.5-inch drives using either EATX or Mini-SSI boards, and a 250-watt power supply that is rated at 92.5 per cent efficiency. The trays have been designed to support future "Nehalem" Xeons from Intel in the first quarter of 2009 and future "Shanghai" Opterons in the second quarter of 2009.
The CloudRack chassis is called the CR1000, and the Xeon trays have been given the TR1000-SC1 moniker while the Opteron trays are called the TR1000-F1.
Using the Mini-SSI boards and quad-core processors, Rackable can get 704 cores and 352 TB of disks (using 1 TB drives) in a 44U rack. (That's 2U higher than the 42U standard rack, but you were only drying fruit and wet laundry up there anyway.) That's 16 cores per rack unit and 8 TB per rack unit. Other designs may meet or even beat the core count, but they fall well short of local storage on the blades, and if customers need to add storage modules, then they lose cores.
For instance, the two-server ProLiant BL2x220c blade from HP can jam 26 cores per rack unit (1,024 cores in a 42U rack), but only offers 400 MB of disk per rack unit and only 16 GB of memory per node. If you take half the blades out to add storage blades, then the CPU density per rack unit is lower than with the CloudRacks. IBM's iDataPlex design, with 16 cores and 2 TB per rack unit, comes closer to the CloudRacks in terms of balance.
Atashie says that all of Rackable's major customers are evaluating the CloudRacks now in their data centers - not just looking over the specs, but putting them through the paces. He would not, however, name names. The CloudRack and associated trays are available now, and as I said above, pricing is whatever. ®