A Closer Look at IBM's iDataPlex Server

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IBM has launched the iDataPlex server system we wrote about earlier, with a press release and iDataPlex product area on the IBM web site. At 15 inches in depth, IBM’s design is much more compact than traditional 1U “pizza box” servers, taking a page from half-depth servers designed by Rackable Systems (RACK), which are 15.5 inches deep. In recent years 1U server designs have been getting deeper, in some cases as deep as 30 inches. The server’s horizontal design also allows for more efficient airflow, with a shorter path through the server. The iDataPlex rack can also be outfitted with a liquid cooled wall on the back of the system, which IBM says will enable it to run at room temperature, with no air conditioning required.

“The iDataPlex’s chassis design reduces the amount of air typically needed for cooling by half, and also leverages new power supply and fan technologies that increase energy efficiency by up to 40% over conventional rack systems,” writes Charles King of Pund-IT in his review of the new server. “As a result, IBM estimates that these features can deliver cooling savings of approximately $1.2 million in a typical (10,000 server) Internet-scale data center.”

IBM says each iDataPlex system can be made to order and arrive to the client integrated (in the rack) and ready to run from the factory. IBM says the cost of iDataPlex will be “well below that of a comparable number of ‘white box’ systems.”

“Many of our data centers utilize ‘green energy’ such as passive cooling to reduce our impact,” said Laurie Mann, Senior Vice President of Engineering and Operations at Yahoo, one of the early clients for iDataPlex. “We continue to look for ways to maximize our resources. Yahoo appreciates the direction IBM is moving in with iDataPlex and its commitment to drive greater power efficiency and density in the datacenter.”

While designed with Web 2.0 applications in mind, Texas Tech University CIO Sam Segran said the school was testing iDataPlex. “We need to scale rapidly to support an ever increasing demand for high performance computing,” said Segran. “With iDataPlex, Texas Tech will be able to operate more efficiently while meeting the needs of our researchers.”

Virtual worlds company Forterra Systems is using an iDataPlex system in the IBM High Performance On Demand Solutions (HiPODS) lab in San Jose, California to test their applications in an IBM Cloud Center running on iDataPlex. “Like many start-ups, technology really is our core business in that Forterra’s applications and business model rely on our technology infrastructure for success,” said Dave Rolston, CEO, Forterra Systems. “iDataPlex provides the flexibility we’re looking for to run our OLIVE – or On-Line Interactive Virtual Environment – platform together with breakthrough power and cooling efficiencies that we can pass on to our customers in the form of higher returns and faster payback.”

“Enterprise Web 2.0 and the emerging Cloud Computing sectors are among the top high growth investment areas for Hummer Winblad,” said Ann Winblad, co-founder and a managing director of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, an investor in enterprise Web 2.0 and Cloud Computing startups like Widgetbox, Sliderocket, Wavemaker, Elastra and Move Networks. “iDataPlex will help to fuel this growth by erasing some of the inhibitors holding Web 2.0 back — namely the amount of space and energy required to serve content to more and more end users.”

About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.