As leading sellers of datacenter hardware, HP (Quote), IBM
and Sun Microsystems
(Quote) love to talk about ways they cool
datacenters and conserve energy. It makes them look good to customers
concerned about curbing energy-related costs.
In the last few years, those vendors have led the resurgence of cooling heat
generated by servers and storage arrays with chilled water. Some analysts
praise the way HP, IBM and Sun have taken an old concept and put new twists on it.
Verari Systems isn’t buying it.
Like HP, IBM and Sun, Verari offers traditional rack-mount servers, storage
systems, blade servers and software to manage its systems. Unlike those
800-pound gorillas, Verari is a virtual startup with an annual $100 million
Yet Verari believes it has a few aces in the deck. It claims to be the first
server maker to create a true storage blade, and it has patented a new way of
cooling blade servers in the datacenter.
Using a vertical cooling technique made possible by employing perforated
tiles under the blade server rack, Verari claims it can provide up
to 25 percent more power efficiency and can require up to 50 percent less
cooling than blades from IBM, HP or Sun.
The man behind the innovation, Verari CTO and co-founder Dave Driggers,
discussed internetnews.com the vertical cooling method and why rack-mount servers will disappear in a few years.
Q: Why are hearing so much about power and cooling efficiencies just in the
last four or five years?
In the last five years, we’ve seen the power consumption in datacenters
almost quadruple. A standard rack five years ago was using anywhere from 1
to 3 kilowatts of power. Today, the average is 5 to 7 kilowatts, but
anything that is using our blade racks or IBM or HP blades are pushing
20,000 to 25,000 watts of power.
The second thing is the price of power has
gone up. It’s skyrocketed. The cost of power as a percentage of the IT
spending has tripled in the last five years. We’ve gone from being under a
percent to almost a 5 percent of the IT spend. Some guys believe the cost of
power for a datacenter will become 10 percent of the IT budget. IT budgets
aren’t getting bigger yet power’s going up and labor continues to go up.
They’re not spending any more on the hardware so you’ve got to find a way to
get that budget back by either dropping the cost of the management and
power. I don’t see power ever getting cheaper.
With the initiatives coming from the president’s office and the Senate, the
EPA is going to be responsible for knowing how much power is in the
datacenter and ultimately what that power is being used for because power
soon is going to be allocated to these guys. There is a limited amount of
power. Being able to say, “This application is using this much power,” we
believe is going to be an important play in the future. Most people aren’t
really out of space. They’re out of power.
Q: What is Verari doing to alleviate power concerns?
When we built BladeRack 2, the goal was to build and design it from the
datacenter in, as opposed to from the rack in.
BladeRack 1 was designed to look at the rack. How can we cool a rack better?
With BladeRack 2, we said we need to figure out how to cool and power a
datacenter better. We built a subsystem on the BladeRack 2 to support up to
480 volts. The bulk of the [uninterruptible power sources] in this
country put out 480. It’s then stepped down to 208 or 110. When you step
down, you immediately start losing efficiency. As you distribute the power,
the lower the voltage, the more is lost in the actual transmission. So you
want to keep them as high voltage as possible.
We’re able to deliver 480
volts to the rack, which saves at the UPS. We then take the 480 and convert
it to DC (direct current) because DC is better for distribution within the
rack. We convert to high-voltage DC in the rack, distribute high-voltage DC
and convert at the blade level to usable low voltages. So we virtually
eliminate the loss of getting the power from the UPS to the actual blade and
then do a high-efficiency convert at the blade.
Q: When you look at IBM, Sun and HP, do you think that their cooling methods
Absolutely. That’s why they are looking at other methods like liquid again.
If you look at the people that are cooling specialists, none of them are
saying we need to move to liquid. With our vertical cooling technology, we
can cool 34,000 watts of power on one rack. Today’s current technology does
not allow us to provide any more power density than that. We’ve got probably
one of the most densest datacenters built around our gear right now. But
they’re just limited by the space of the power generation. In order to
generate more power, they start using more space. We’re able to cool with
The future really is whole-room cooling or whole-datacenter cooling. That’s
what our architecture already does. We’ve got customers today that have very
large datacenters that are supporting 10,000 machines with 20,000+ watts of
power per rack.
You walk in the datacenter and it’s 80 to 85 degrees in
there. There are no cold spots, but there are also no hot spots. The key is
utilizing all the air that’s in there for cooling. You want to put back in
the hottest air, equally distributed, possible so that you can get that full
30 to 33 degree delta. They’re capable of cooling 33. but only if the air is
already warm. They can’t make the air any colder than 55 degrees. You want
to be right in the band where you’re getting the full 33 degree delta but
you’re also keeping the systems as cool as what’s cost effective.
We perfected the vertical cooling method. We didn’t enhance it with
BladeRack 2 but with the power subsystem being more efficient, we got the
ability to cool more. Instead of cooling 28,000 watts into a rack, we can
now cool 34,000 because more of that is being used for computer rather than
Q: How else does Verari differentiate its blade portfolio?
Our blade competition, which is HP and IBM, have lots of blade servers. What
they don’t have is a full storage offering no blade. HP introduced something they call a storage blade. It’s six small disks on a blade that
are really direct-attached storage. It’s not really a storage blade. The
total density on the rack is going to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 17
to 30 terabytes of storage. We’re at 360 terabytes today, and in April it
jumps up to 548 terabytes.
That’s storage on a blade. It’s the densest storage in the market. It’s
still truly blade-based so you’re capable of hot-swapping the drives as well
as the blades. It’s not designed to be a product that you have to take
offline in order to change a drive.
The HP system, you can’t change a drive.
The drives aren’t hot-swappable. To me, that’s direct-attached storage; it’s
just adding capacity to their standard blade. It’s the same thing IBM does.
IBM has one blade and if you want any extra capacity on that server, you
take the next slot and put in two hard drives.
What HP’s talking about with the c-Class is the evolution of all of their
computing to blades. It’s going to happen over time. If you
look at their roadmap, they’ll be bringing other types of servers and
workstations onto blades in ’08 or ’09. We’re bringing that now, so we feel
we’re a few years ahead of them.