Rackable to Seed the Cloud

A new lineup of dense, x86 systems could be the backbone to cloud computing and businesses interested in Web 2.0 infrastructures.

Rackable Systems is providing new ways for enterprises to build out the cloud.

The company, which is known for its high-density server and storage products and has been one of the leading advocates for building mobile data center containers, launched five new systems June 23 aimed at businesses looking to build out their computing capacity for Web 2.0, cloud computing and high-performance computing.

The new hardware includes three of what Rackable calls its Half-Depth Servers, which are only 15.5-inches deep and 2U (3.5-inch) in height. These new systems include two Intel-based servers, the XE2004-SC1 and the XE2006-SC1, and another system, the XE2006-F1, which uses Advanced Micro Devices' Opteron chips.

Rackable also is offering a new server specifically designed for its portable container system called ICE (Integrated Concentro Environment) Cube. This server, the XE2208-SC1, is based on Intel chips and has eight, 3.5-inch, hard disk drives. This server also means a business can pack 2,800 two-way systems into a 40-foot by 8-foot mobile data center. (The original configurations allowed for 1,200 servers.)

Finally, the company will offer a blade enclosure dubbed the ST2000, which can squeeze 12 dual-socket servers into a 9U (15.75-inch) rack. This enclosure offers up to 21 processing cores per 1U (1.75-inch) rack and 11TB of storage per 1U rack.

In order to save power - a major concern when deploying a container or trying to create a data center that supports Web 2.0 application - Rackable designed these new systems to have multiple boards work with a single power supply. This allows each board to act like an independent server, which creates greater efficiency, said Geoffrey Noer, the senior director of product marketing and management at Rackable.

If a power supply does go out, Noer said the density of the other servers should allow data center to continue to function while the power supplies are fixed or new servers are installed to replace the other ones.

"What has been changing is that the power envelope and power consumption has been changing and it's getting a lot more focused today than it did several years ago," Noer said.

Rackable is putting its efforts behind this new hardware at a time when the race to build out the cloud has gained attention from the likes of bigger players such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard. In April, IBM announced its iDataPlex array, a high-density system of x86 servers that is targeting the same Web 2.0 companies and cloud computing as Rackable has for years.

In addition, IBM also announced that it would introduce a mobile container similar to the ones offered by Rackable and Sun Microsystems. Whether Rackable can compete again a similar set of offerings from IBM is yet to be determined, but the fact that Big Blue is entering the field now does help validate the market and show that IT departments may have an interest in this type of high-density computing.

While these types of mobile data centers allow for more flexible computing than a traditional data center, along with allowing companies to shop for the cheapest local power supplies since a container can be moved, Noer believes that companies such as Google and Microsoft offer the best examples of the possibilities of using this model.

For example, in Chicago, Microsoft is using several hundred containers to build up its data centers there. "I think a lot of businesses are waiting for the larger players to make the first move," Noer added.