What Puts Ultradense Servers on Cutting Edge

By Francis Chu  |  Posted 2001-05-14

In the coming months, a new breed of ultradense servers will emerge to redefine Web-hosting economics at Internet data centers and offer managed service providers and application service providers a worthwhile alternative to current front-line Web servers.

RLX Technologies Inc. and FiberCycle Networks Inc. recently announced ultradense server systems based on Transmeta Corp.s low-power Crusoe processors that will ship this quarter.

Intended to replace the industry-standard Intel X86-based servers handling high-volume Web transactions, these specialized systems will be able to increase data center efficiency by providing higher processor density while minimizing power consumption and cooling requirements. eWeek Labs expects that ultradense servers will help service providers lower upkeep costs, support more customers and be more profitable.

Ultradense servers are more economical than standard Intel X86 servers because of a cutting-edge design in which the entire server is in the form of a "blade" (see photo). Using Crusoe processors, RLX and FiberCycle have created ultradense server blades consisting only of the CPU, memory, disk drives, standard electronic components and a motherboard.

The modular server blades fit in a rack-mount enclosure that also houses shared network connections, power supplies and cooling systems. An entire unit will be about the same size as a standard Web server, about 2U to 3U (3.5 to 5.25 inches) high but will fit much more computing power in a rack.

Todays most compact Web server stands 1U (1.75 inches) high and holds no more than two processors; that means a maximum of 42 servers with 84 processors can fit in a standard 42U data center rack. In contrast, RLXs ultradense systems will be able to populate that standard rack with more than 300 server blades.

As impressive as this new technology is, some questions need to be addressed before service providers decide to deploy ultradense servers.

First, the main components of ultradense servers, the processor and hard drives, have been used mainly in mobile computer systems and are unproven in server environments. Potential purchasers need to be convinced that ultra- dense systems perform well under stress and are reliable over the long run.

Second, because each compact blade is an individual server and large numbers will be deployed across a data center, software that enables quick application deployment and configuration will be required. Efficient management software will also be needed.

RLX plans to include a comprehensive suite of management tools with its systems. The vendor will also include SNMP Management Information Base agents to support leading server management software.

FiberCycles WebBunker ultradense servers will incorporate an architecture designed solely to enhance the Crusoe processors performance in Web applications.

We believe ultradense servers will be ideal candidates to take advantage of advances in networking and I/O technologies such as 10G-bps Ethernet and Infiniband, enhancing Web-serving capabilities and integration with back-end systems such as storage networks and database applications.

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