Rackable Systems is targeting the UK and northern Europe as it seeks to expand outside its American heartland and take advantage of the growing demand for equipment to power cloud applications.

Rackable Systems (not be confused with hosting provider Rackspace), is based in Fremont, California and makes server and storage products for large-scale data centre deployments. All of its systems are highly customisable and built-to-order, and it makes use of an ‘eco-logical' design in order to allow for higher density and greater power and cooling efficiencies, all pressing concerns for the data centre manager running cloud-based applications.

Although Rackable has been operating in Europe since 2006, and currently has 12,000 to 13,000 servers installed in the region (for example, Amazon in Ireland alone has 6,000 Rackable servers), this was achieved primarily via the US, and only 8 percent of the company's overall revenues are from international sales.

"We are the fourth largest provider of x86 compute in North America, especially if the rumoured Sun/IBM tie up goes ahead," said George Skaff, VP of Marketing. "We differ from Dell in that we offer a variety of choice for motherboards and chipsets etc, and allow customers to spec their own systems."

"We are small, nimble, and fast, hence we have useful partnerships with the major chip makers," he added. "The key thing that makes us different from the likes of Dell etc is that we design low power and high density systems. 50 percent of our customers are collocation sites."

But now the company is looking to focus more on the European market, specifically Northern Europe (the UK, Benelux and Nordic countries). It is to open a UK office, and has appointed Rod Evan as VP and managing director of Rackable Systems Ltd.

"The thing is, we want to have a credible position and not overstretch ourselves," Rod Evan told Techworld, commenting on the company's decision to concentrate on the UK and the Nordics first. "If we went after all the major markets in Europe right now (i.e. Germany, France etc), it would kill us." Evan predicted that Rackable would expand in Germany towards the second half of 2009 or 2010.

Evan is undaunted about dealing with a new market that already has established suppliers. "Every customer today is looking at technology refresh," he said. "Often the refresh is not just about processor speeds etc, it is more about the ecology of the data centre," he said, pointing to the fact of modern equipment is often brought in to reduce power consumption, ease installation etc.

"It has been refreshing so far," he said, commenting on customer reaction. "Every customer we get in front of is leading to some form of project. We have so much experience with the cloud with Amazon, YouTube etc, we understand the architectures involved and that resonates with customers."

Rackable's route to market will be via the channel, and it hopes to have a UK office and legal entity set up in late April.