Server maker expanding double-whammy family

Open Source Systems to expand range of Gemini servers, which package two motherboards into one chassis for cooling efficiency. Photo: Gemini packs in dual motherboards

Open Source Systems, a small Silicon Valley server maker, is expanding its Gemini line of machines that combine dual motherboards in a single 3.5-inch chassis.

The company's best-selling model is the Gemini 2U, a model launched about six months ago with two motherboards, each housing dual Intel or Advanced Micro Devices x86 server chips. More Gemini designs are in the works, though, said Open Source Systems founder and Chief Executive Eren Niazi.

"You'll see a family of Gemini. We have a lot of different models," Niazi said Friday. First up will be a 1U design--a model with a thickness of 1 rack unit, or 1.75 inches. The initial 1U system will have two motherboards, one in front and one in back, and a follow-on model will have three motherboards, he said.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company provides evidence that some exuberance is returning to the server market after a multiyear retrenchment following the dot-com bust. It's not the only one in the market, either: Rackable Systems has gone public, and SuperMicro is in the process of doing so.

As with many server companies today, established or not, Open Source Systems puts an emphasis on power and cooling. In particular, the Gemini 2U design employs larger 4-inch fans that can pump cooling air over the electronics more efficiently than the smaller fans used in two 1U servers, Niazi said. In addition, the systems use ColdWatt's high-efficiency power supplies, which lose less heat than typical models as they convert standard AC power to the DC power used within the computer chassis.

In addition, the 2U systems accommodate 12 drives, compared with a more common 8 in two 1U servers, he said. They can be associated with either system, and many customers attach 10 drives to one server housing database software and two to the other running Web server applications.

The Gemini 2U, including two motherboards, costs between $10,000 and $105,000, he said. The top-end configuration employs 750GB hard drives and 64GB of memory on each server.

The company ships its products with open-source software, usually including the CentOS clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux.

Squeezing multiple servers into a regular chassis is not a strategy unique to Open Source Systems. Supermicro has squeezed two motherboards into a 1U chassis using Intel's Port Townsend design, and SGI is one customer buying the Supermicro systems. That design involves longer, narrow motherboards rather than the standard ATX size that Open Source Systems will use in its 1U designs.

Open Source Systems was founded in 2001 and now has 55 employees. In 2006 it invested much of its revenue into new designs and a move to a 33,000-square-foot facility in Atari's old digs, but it was on the profitable side of break-even.

Revenue grew 106 percent from 2005 to 2006, Niazi said. "This year we're going to try to push to 300 percent," he said.

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