McNealy Resurfaces As Advisor To Liquid-cooled Server Blade Vendor


Sun Microsystems co-founder Scott McNealy, who disappeared after his company was acquired by Oracle, has resurfaced in the server industry as advisor to Hardcore Computer, a startup developer of liquid-cooled systems.

McNealy's experience with technology, especially what it takes to build energy-efficient data centers, is welcome at Hardcore as the company just begins shipping its first products, said Al Berning, CEO of the Rochester, Minn.-based vendor.

"(McNealy) obviously understands technology and cooling technology," Berning said. "Sun was the first company to do servers in a shipping container eight to ten years ago. So he was working with Sun to drive down data center costs for a long time."

Berning said that McNealy feels Hardcore is an opportunity to drive those costs down even further. "So we saw the opportunity to use him as a sounding board," he said.

Berning, in response to CRN, admitted that it is also a good thing just to have McNealy's name associated with Hardcore. "It can't hurt," he said.

Oracle acquired Sun in January of 2010. Shortly after the acquisition closed, McNealy left Sun as chairman.

Hardcore Computer’s Liquid Blade platform consists of a low-cost blade server chassis which is filled with a proprietary dielectric liquid into which dual-socket server blades are submerged. The entire system fits in a standard data center rack.

Those blades, which are powered by one or two Intel 5500 or 5600 Xeon series processors running on an Intel S5500HV reference motherboard, run at full power with all the heat drawn away by the liquid. They also have the space for adding an optional GPU (graphics processor).

Hardcore’s technology does not use water, which could leak and destroy a system or even cause a fire. Instead, the entire server blade is submerged in the proprietary liquid which Hardcore claims provides about 1,350 times the cooling capability of air.

Berning said the blades can be used to build servers, workstations, or desktop PCs. They are currently being evaluated by potential OEM system manufacturers who he declined to name, and are expected to be in distribution sometime next month.