Data Centers as Art, Really?
[caption id="attachment_9700" align="aligncenter" width="350"] Seriously.[/caption] A datacenter can be an artful arrangement of servers, switches and cabling, all of it arranged to maximize computing while minimizing power. But is it actually... art? Xi3 thinks so—and has launched a product to back that up. At this week’s Interop show in Las Vegas, Xi3 announced the awkwardly-spelled FreeForm dataCENT3R Project, which offers customers a free hand to configure an array of Xi3 modular servers in three dimensions. To prove its point, Xi3's demonstration rack is curved. David Politis, the chief marketing officer at Xi3, suggested in an email that curving the structure of the FreeForm architecture was simply to show it could be done: “We can work with IT pros to create edge Data Centers of any shape or size, mobiie or stationary, and with microSERV3Rs or Modular Computers in chassis of any color.” The key is that each of Xi3's modular computers can be passively air-cooled, allowing them to be mounted in different arrangements. Xi3's modular computers and so-called MicroS3ervers (which will ship in the second half of 2013 for $999) measure 4.27 in. x 3.66 in. x 3.66 in. Xi3's MicroS3rvers use either an AMD quad-core R464H or R460H chip or a single-core 2000+ chip with 8 GB of DDR3 DRAM. Both are rated for 50 watts of power. The level of performance those chips offer make the Xi3 machines suitable for high-performance computing, Hadoop clusters, and Web servers, Xi3 said. According to Jason Sullivan, the chief executive of Xi3, data centers using the company's modular computers shouldn't be confined to placing them in traditional rack cabinets. The first FreeForm structure is between four to eight feet tall and stretches seven feet wide and two feet deep (94.5 in. x 82.5 in. x 21.0 inches); it can simultaneously support from 48 to 96 Xi3 modular computers or its Xi3 microSERV3rs at the same time. Like any proper artist, Sullivan knows how to push buttons. In January, the modular PC maker earned some buzz at the Consumer Electronics Show with its "Piston" PC, considered by some to be the next-generation "Steambox" console powered by Valve Software. Valve later invested an undisclosed amount in the company; now, Xi3 hopes to achieve the same level of chatter for its data center products. It's hard to see how a "serious" data center will use this instead of a more traditional configuration. But for a Web 2.0 company startup looking to make an impression—well, there has to be some company out there that wants to make a splash, right? Image: Xi3