Rackable Delivers Computing in an ICE Cube

Rackable is rolling out its latest mobile data center, which comes with Intel's quad-core Xeon processors.

SAN FRANCISCO-Rackable Systems wants to deliver mobile computing on ice.

At the 2007 Intel Developer Forum here Sept. 18, the Fremont, Calif., company-best known for its high-density X86 storage and server products-rolled up its latest mobile data center right next to the convention halls doors.

The ICE (Integrated Concentro Environment) Cube is Rackables second attempt to deliver a mobile data center. In March, the company first launched the Concentro, a 40-foot by 8-foot mobile data center with the capacity to hold up to 1,200 of a companys rack-mount 1U (1.75-inch) servers.

With ICE Cube, Rackable is offering customers the choice of either a 20-foot or 40-foot by 8-foot trailer that can house up to 1,400 of its 1U servers. In addition, the company will now offer Intels quad-core Xeon processor, which means that the mobile data center can contain a maximum of 11,200 processor cores.

"We are not following any model except to build what the customer wants," Mark Barrenechea, president and CEO of Rackable, told eWEEK while standing next to a model ICE trailer. "We ask the customer what they want to build. We do believe that this type of mobile data center will address the power, cooling and density concerns of the customer, and we are working to leverage the latest Intel technology."

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There are few companies that have tried to offer a fully mobile data center. Right now, Rackables only competition is Sun Microsystems Project Blackbox, which combines storage, computing and network infrastructure hardware and software-along with high-efficiency power and liquid cooling-into modular units based on standard 20-by-8-by-8-foot shipping containers.

In an interview, Barrenechea said ICE has several advantages compared to Suns Blackbox, including Rackables use of its own Half-Depth Servers, which are only 15.5-inches deep. This means that Rackable can squeeze more systems into the center, he said.

In addition, Rackable removes all the fans from the individual servers and circulates cold air throughout the data center and expels warm air by use of several impeller fans. In addition, the ICE data center uses the companys DC power technology. Together, these and other innovations help reduce the overall power and cooling costs.

The design of the data center, Barrenechea said, also allows for easier removal of the servers and racks. The ICE center also offers a maximum of 4.1 petabytes of storage.

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For customers, Barrenechea said Rackable will support hardware from third-party vendors, such as a switch from Hewlett-Packard or Cisco Systems. However, Barrenechea said Rackable will only use its own servers since it removes the individual fans from the systems.

The trick now for both Rackable and Sun is to find customers willing to buy these types of mobile data centers. For Barrenechea, that means targeting Fortune 5000 companies as well as the federal government.

Rackable is selling the ICE Cube mobile data center now. The company is not releasing a base price for the data center yet.

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