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Supermicro puts two servers in one chassis

By sharing a single power supply, Supermicro's 1U Twin fits two dual-processor servers into a 1.75-inch-thick chassis.

Blade servers may be all the rage, but one computer maker is working to squeeze more horsepower into a conventional chassis.

Server and motherboard maker Supermicro plans to announce its 1U Twin product Monday, a 1.75-inch rack-mounted chassis with two dual-processor servers.

The system uses less power and produces less heat than two conventional servers of that thickness, said Tau Leng, director of marketing and system validation for the San Jose, Calif.-based company. It can accommodate Intel's dual-core Xeon 5100 "Woodcrest" processors or quad-core Xeon 5300 "Clovertown" processors, he said.

"We believe that this is going to be a trend for people in the server industry," Leng said. "We're going to see more and more of this kind of design or concept."

But dual-node servers won't conquer the world. The 1U Twin systems lack room for adding extra network cards or hard drives, for example, he said. (Rack-mounted server thickness is measured in rack units, or U, and 1U is 1.75 inches.)

And the two server nodes share one power supply, making it appropriate for markets such as high-performance computing, where customers are more tolerant of hardware failures. Mainstream business-oriented servers often have redundant power supplies for a single server rather than a single power supply shared between two servers.

Packing servers more densely hearkens back to early days of blade servers, when companies such as RLX Technologies squeezed many low-end systems into a small chassis. But blade server customers pushed for fuller-featured machines, leading to much bulkier cabinets. But as long as heating and electrical power distribution systems aren't overtaxed, higher-density server designs are desirable.

Supermicro in November filed to hold an initial public offering. The company declared revenue of $303 million and net income of $17 million in its fiscal 2006, which ended June 30. For the quarter ended September 30, revenue was $90 million and net income $5 million.

Supermicro sells some products directly to customers--search engine companies are one example--but mostly the company's products are used by others, such as "whitebox" computer makers who affix their own brands to others' designs.

One significant Supermicro partner is SGI, which uses Supermicro products in its new Intel Xeon-based line of high-performance compute clusters.

Reflecting their technical computing orientation, the 1U Twin systems have a built-in InfiniBand high-speed networking connection used to link systems into higher-end compute clusters. Building InfiniBand in leaves room for other networking adapters to be plugged into the machine, Leng said.

Each node of the 1U Twin also has two gigabit Ethernet ports and two hard drives.