New Rackable Servers Enable Higher Density

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Cloud data centers are about to get even denser. Rackable Systems (RACK) is introducing a new line of low-power servers that will enable data center operators to increase the density of their computing environments. The new products from Rackable include a server that will double the computing capacity of the company’s ICE Cube data center containers.

The next-generation servers from Rackable accelerate the arms race among server vendors chasing high-volume deals to support the growth of cloud computing platforms being deployed by the Internet’s largest companies. Rackable has been a pioneer in high-density computing, and is seeking to extend its leadership even as rivals like IBM, Dell and HP introduce competing lines of cloud servers.

“This space has always been competitive,” said Geoffrey Noer, senior director of product management at Rackable. “We don’t expect that to change. We believe we have an advantage from our close customer relationships.”

What are those customers looking for in a high-density server? Rackable’s four new servers include a generous amount of on-board storage, which Noer sees as a key differentiator for cloud builders. “Without the local storage support, we believe the extra density goes to waste,” said Noerr. “We’ve seen that going to network storage is not practical, particularly given the cost model.”


The new servers all share two or more 2-way server boards per system. The XE2006 half-depth server is shipping now, and a pair of 2-way Intel Xeon 5100 chipsets, and up to four 3.5-inch hot-swappable drives. The other products, which will be available within 30 days , include the M2006 half-depth server, the XE2208 server optimized for the ICE Cube, and the ScaleOut ST2000, a new higher density implementation of its hybrid blade solution, designed around the Intel 5100 San Clemente chipset.

The XE2208 comes with an option of AC or DC power supplies, each of which runs a 2-way server, allowing the 2U server to use about the same power as its 1U predecessors. Noer noted that Rackable’s AC power units have a power efficiency of 92.5%, while the DC power supplies reach 96.5%.

“The rising costs of energy and data center facilities continue to put pressure on the industry to fit more compute and storage capacity into a data center,” said Mark J. Barrenechea, Rackable Systems president & CEO. “We have been committed to doubling our density, delivering the highest efficiency possible, engineering solutions for cloud computing and high performance workloads, and with our new XE Solutions, we are delivering on those commitments.”

Noer said the XE2208 doubles the number of cores in the ICE Cube, along with four times the storage capacity. A rack loaded with XE2208 servers is expected to use 16 kilowatts of power, according to Rackable, meaning a fully-packed ICE Cube container with 28 racks will have 22,400 cores and require 448 kilowatts of power.

With its closely-couple cooling, the ICE Cube can manage that power load. “Once of the hidden advantages of the Ice Cube is that you don’t have all the hot spots you have in regular data centers,” said Noer. “The cooling capacity of the ICE Cube is more than enough for the XE2208 at full deployment.”

Rackable has predicted that 2008 will be a breakthrough year for containers, a forecast that has been largely confirmed by Microsoft’s decision to deploy containers in its new Chicago data center.

“Simply because of the physical data center limitations, there is a very strong opportunity (for containers) as a supplement to existing data centers,” said Noer.

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.