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SGI rolls out (more) data center containers

Three ICE Cubes shy of full tray

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Freshly frozen

The ones that are available today are based on the original ICE Cubes, which were designed to have two rows of half-depth Rackable Systems machines inside of the 20 or 40 foot containers. There are three models of these today, which allow for 24 or 28 racks in a 40-footer (one has a vestibule and the other doesn't) or 12 racks in a 20-footer. This design has radiators to move cold are near the servers, and the hot air from the back of the servers is blown across the radiators, cooling it before it is sucked back into the servers to cool them.

The new containers, which you can see outlined in the table below alongside the old ICE Cubes, are designed to house all of SGI's servers, not just the half-depth Rackable machines.

SGI Ice Cube Table

Not quite a full tray of ICE Cubes — yet.

The new ICE Cubes are being called universal containers to differentiate them from the old models. The systems have their own fans instead of the container-level fans and radiators used in the original ICE Cubes; they also have power and cooling along the top of the container. The 40-footer versions of the universal containers have to be chilled with water, but the 20-footer has an air-cooled option that brings in air from the outside.

For the maximum compute density SGI can bring to bear in a container, you go with the IC4016UP, which has custom 60U racks that can support gear burning up to 45 kilowatts per rack and, using the new 12-core Opteron 6100 processors, can cram 46,080 cores into a container. Manel says SGI has done a proof of concept that demonstrates it can put in a combination of CPU and GPU computing and cope with 1 megawatt of power draw in this container. Some of the racks are fixed, while others have aisles that let servers be rolled in and locked in place. The IC4024UD container is optimized for storage, and using SGI's InfiniteStorage arrays houses in 24 49U racks, up to 29.8 petabytes of disk capacity can be crammed into a 40-footer.

The Universal Air Container, IC2008UA, is perhaps the most interesting one and no doubt is derived from work with the US Army. This 20-footer has an adiabatic cooling system - meaning you spray water on a radiator and blow outside air across it to cool the air - for desert environments. You need a garden hose to use this system, but in a lot of geographies, just bringing in the outside air will be enough. This container can house eight 44U roll-in racks.

SGI did not provide pricing for the containers, explaining that they are highly customized deals. (Isn't the point of having a product line to get away from customization?) But what Manel did say is that SGI has figured out that using its own engineering department to install plumbing and electric is way too expensive, and now, it subcontracts that work out to professionals who cost a lot less than its own engineers. That means SGI has more wiggle room to give you a discount on installation fees. ®

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