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Super Micro goes platinum

Super efficient white boxes

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Super Micro, the king of the whitebox server makers, has launched a new platinum series of server platforms that feature super-efficient power supplies.

Although the power supply is arguably the most boring part of a server, over the long haul having an efficient power supply can save more money than it costs to buy one. In another boost to efficiency, Super Micro's new platinum machines also feature other electricity-sipping components that give the whitebox server sellers who rebadge Super Micro kit a chance to sell against the tier-one server makers.

The platinum servers get their name from the certification level of the power supply used in them, which is bestowed upon power supplies by the 80Plus organization. Electric utilities in North America ganged up to create 80Plus to independently test and certify the efficiency of power supplies used in computers and other electronics.

To get an 80Plus rating, a multi-output power supply must have an efficiency of 80 per cent or higher at 20, 50, and 100 per cent of the rated load of the power supply. The 80Plus organization tests 115V and 230V internal power supplies used in servers, and so far 2,257 power supplies have been tested, with the bulk of them being 115V units since these are more commonplace in PCs, workstations, and entry servers.

To claim anything even approaching cutting-edge greeniness, a server power supply has to be at 92 per cent or higher rated efficiency at 50 per cent load, which gives it a gold rating from 80Plus - the new power supplies in the Super Micro platinum servers are rated at 94 per cent efficiency or higher.

That extra two per cent efficiency is really hard to come by. Thus far, only the 920 watt power supply from Super Micro, a 1,200 watt supply from HP, and a 600 watt unit from Chicony Power have the platinum rating.

Most of the 230V supplies have a silver rating (89 per cent at half load) or a gold rating (92 per cent at half load), although there are a few stragglers with only a bronze rating (85 per cent at half load). For 115V power supplies, nearly half of the units tested are rated merely at 80Plus, which means 80 per cent or higher at any load; most of the remaining 115V supplies are at the bronze level (85 per cent efficiency) with a few hundred attaining silver (88 per cent) or gold (90 per cent) levels. There is not yet a 115V power supply that meets the platinum level.

And yes, it is annoying that bronze, silver, gold, and platinum mean different efficiency levels depending on the voltage of the power supply.

Super Micro reckons that over the three-year lifetime of a platinum server, the extra efficiency of the power supply saves about $300 in operating costs (for both power and cooling). So the incremental cost of a more efficient power supply is one that many data centers - particularly those running out of power - are willing to pay at the front end so they can cram more gear into their data centers.

Data centers are never really interested in saving money or power, no matter how much some people talk that way. They just want to do more with the power budgets they have been allocated.

The platinum line of servers from Super Micro include 2U, 3U, and 4U rack units, with the 4U machine able to be converted to a tower machine to be used for servers or workstations, as you can see here:

Super Micro Platinum Servers

Super Micro Platinum Level SuperServers: more black and gray boxes than white boxes

The pre-configured SuperServer machines can be equipped with motherboards that support the latest six-core Xeon 5600s from Intel and twelve-core Opteron 6100s from Advanced Micro Devices, which support 1.35 volt low-voltage DDR3 main memory as well as the standard 1.5 volt sticks. The motherboards in the platinum SuperServers also sport the company's own Universal I/O interface on two-socket servers, which allows for 10 Gigbit Ethernet and DDR and QDR InfiniBand network adapters and 6Gb/sec SAS and Fibre Channel I/O adapters to be snapped onto the boards as needed.

If you want to build your own platinum box, Super Micro will tuck the 920-watt supply into ten different SuperChassis server enclosures, eight of which are 2U rack models with different I/O and storage features.

You can see the full list of platinum-level SuperServer machines and SuperChassis enclosures here. ®

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