Servers Can Be Both Eco and Logical, Claims Rackable


Is there room in the market for a specialist builder of data-centre servers? Rod Evans, the boss of Rackable Systems’ new European operation, clearly thinks so

“You can’t really have a green data-centre, but you can get more out of it and use less power.” So says Rod Evans, the man charged with bringing specialist US server builder Rackable Systems to new customers in Europe.

Rackable’s forté is low power and high density servers – getting the maximum possible bang for the watt. To that end, it makes use of unusual tactics such as building every server to order from scratch, designing its own power supplies to run entire racks on 12v DC, and using desktop components in server casings.

The company, which has agreed to buy Silicon Graphics out of Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, claims to have grabbed the number four position in the US server market as a result of its focus on power and density. Now it wants to do the same in Europe, says Evans.

“We focus on kW per rack practical density, because if you use co-location, you pay by the rack space you use,” he says. “Power is a big issue, especially in London – financial houses in Canary Wharf have all been told they can’t have more, for instance.

“In the UK it’s three to five kW per rack, in the US you can get 20 or 30kW. Plus, the power infrastructure is more of an issue in the UK than in the US, where you can move your data-centre to somewhere near a hydroelectric power station.”

Web 2.0 needs Data Centre 2.0

Evans says the company’s aim is data-centres, but not business data-centres. He argues that the likes of social networking, grid and high-performance computing, digital media, and Web 2.0 applications in general still need as many physical processor cores as possible, with less opportunity to consolidate onto a few large virtualised servers.

“Virtualisation is not big in webservers or HPC yet, though it is in hosting. VMware’s vCloud initiative might have changed that in a couple of years’ time, but it’s not a big driver in our markets right now,” he explains.

“We are experts in webservers and HPC. We are not for example Exchange experts. Webservers and HPC are about performance, while a business usually has a framework that you have to fit in – it will have SANs, management tools, and so on.”

He adds that for co-location centres, it is all about making better use of existing installations, for example by better server management, or running on DC power.

“We can get to 99 percent efficiency on power supplies, mainly because we’re going straight to 12v,” he claims. “It means I can take any motherboard and plug it in. It’s also perfectly phased power – if you have three-phase, we use all three and balance them. And we have cooling expertise – our CTO is an airflow expert.”

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