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Rackable shrinks CloudRack cookie sheets

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Rackable Systems, one of the handful of niche server makers out there on the cutting edge of compute density and energy efficiency, will today upgrade its relatively new CloudRack line of "cookie sheet" servers.

The original CloudRacks debuted back in October 2008. Rather than putting metal enclosures around the horizontal blades, as Rackable has done in the past, the company just plunked down components (motherboards, power supplies, disk drives) in a topless fashion on top of a metal sheet.

As the company's name suggests, Rackable doesn't do the blade server chassis like IBM, Hewlett-Packard, and Dell. It thinks at the rack level and does horizontal blades. With the CloudRacks announced last year, the company launch 22U and 44U racks that were 26-inches wide and had 1U server and storage drawers. Each rack came with two (22U) or four (44U) large and efficient axial fans that cool the whole shebang, and each supported EATX or Mini-SSI motherboards using a variety of Xeon and Opteron processors. Each tray came with a 250-watt power supply and up to eight 3.5-inch SATA disk drives (2.5-inch SATA drives are also supported in some configurations).

With the CloudRack2 servers announced today, the rack has been shrunk to 24-inches in width and made a little taller at 23U and 46U. The new width, says Saeed Atashie, director of server products at Rackable, fits better with the standard floor tile size in a data center. (The racks are 40 inches deep).

This time around, the trays don't include the power supply, which has been shifted out into the rack enclosure itself and which provides direct conversion from three-phase AC power coming out of the data center walls to 12V power needed by the servers on the tray. So, the "server" doesn't have a cover, doesn't have any fans, and doesn't have a power supply.

By moving the power supplies off each tray, Rackable can now cram three servers based on Intel's impending "Nehalem EP" Xeon processors instead onto a tray (rather than two), and Atashie says that the company will soon be able to rejigger the components on the tray to get four whole Xeon servers on a tray, along with disks.

Eventually, Rackable will support anything from Pico-ITX to EATX motherboards on the trays, using a variety of processors. The company is working on a system that will use Intel's Atom embedded processors, which will be sold as a variant in the MicroSlice servers. (The MicroSlice line of trays was announced in late January using Mini-ITX and Micro-ATX motherboards).

The CloudRack C2 cabinet is something that Rackable is hoping will get some business flowing. The 46U rack gets rid of the axial fans and uses arrays of two-deep, three-wide fans. 14 rows of these fans cover most of the back of the rack. On a normal rack of servers, the many fans used in the box can consume anywhere from 5,000 to 5,300 watts of juice, or roughly 25 per cent of the power that goes into a rack. But with the CloudRack 2 machines, Rackable says it can drop the juice that fans use to 8 per cent of input rack power.

On the right side of the CloudRack 2 cabinet is a set of six redundant, hot-swap power rectifiers and three ports for three-phase AC input. The setup Rackable has created can deliver 99 per cent efficiency between the input AC power and the 12V DC power going into the server. This is great, but it has other side effects. Fans are not creating electric noise that makes local powers inside the servers work more inefficiently.

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