With datacenter operators grappling with limited space and power, yet ever-increasing computing demands, hardware vendors are feeling the heat. They need to find ways to deliver hardware that can, in a nutshell, do more with less. One approach is to groom individual servers to be more energy efficient by, say, reducing the number of fans, installing a more energy-efficient power supply, streamlining the overall design, and so forth. Rackable Systems has taken a different approach: Rather than focusing on energy efficiency at the server level, the company is tackling the problem at the rack level.
The company recently introduced the CloudRack C2, a unified server cabinet, built for cluster computing applications, with some innovative tricks for maximizing power efficiency as well as cooling efficiency. Case in point: Rackable says the CloudRack C2 is thermally optimized to allow datacenters to operate to as high as 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Running a datacenter at that temperature would mean that you'd have to find a new place to safely store slabs of frozen meat. But it would also mean a significant drop in operating costs, thanks to reduced CRAC usage (that is, if the other gear in the datacenter can handle the more extreme temperature as well).
More with less
The power optimization of the CloudRack C2 starts at the tray level. Each tray is, effectively, an ultra-dense 1U server (1.75 inches high, 19 inches wide, and 31 inches in diameter), complete with standard components such as processor, board, and storage drives, along with features such as full IPMI 2.0 remote management and serial direct. Datacenter operators have flexibility here: The system supports a wide range of Intel and AMD processors, from Pico-ITX to EATX -- plus it's also designed to support the forthcoming Intel Nehalem Xeon. That means it's "future-ready" for next-gen upgrades.
What's particularly interesting, though, is what you won't find in each tray: no fans, no power supply, and no cover. The latter simply isn't necessary, according to Rackable. The extra sheet metal does little more than add weight to the system (which means higher costs and greater fuel consumption for shipping), and the open top offers easier access to server components. "Basically, we've removed the covers because we wanted to have an ecological design and eliminate wasteful pieces of sheet metal," said Saeed Atashie, director of server products at Rackable Systems.