Given the massive publicity given to cloud computing and its components, such as Platform-as-a-Service and Infrastructure-as-a-Service, one can be forgiven for thinking that it won't be long before all our bits and bytes are delivered from someone, somewhere else out there.
But there has also a counter-movement of sorts underway, driven by companies that need to quickly scale up their data center capabilities, but still want to keep things on premise. That is, vendor offerings of “containerized” or modular data centers, in which servers, storage, blades and other infrastructure could be trucked in and parked onsite, and plugged into the existing facility.
For example, Microsoft built a completely containerized production data center at its Northlake, Ill. facility. The facility is a two-floor design where the first floor is a containerized design housing 150 to 220 40-foot containers, each containing 1,000 to 2,000 servers. Microsoft—as other vendors, including IBM, Dell, and Sun (now Oracle)—found that a standard 20x8x8-foot shipping container can be packed with equipment and quickly shipped to any location.
Recently, HP joined this interesting market segment with its own data center-in-a-box solutions. HP recently announced that Purdue University is using the container-based HP Performance-optimized Data Center (POD) to expand and speed its ability to deliver research projects.
Purdue has been working to double its current research efforts, and to this end, has been adding server clusters to its data center every summer for the last three years. The university turned to a data center-in-a-box approach because it was being increasingly constrained by budget, power and space limitations.
By implementing the HP POD, available in 40- or 20-foot containers, Purdue estimates it can expand its research capabilities by 50% within a matter of months for less than one-third the cost of building a new data center. Furthermore, the portability of the HP POD enabled the university to place it in front of a power plant, eliminating the possibility of power transfer and capacity issues.
In the era of cloud, you may wonder what kind of future containerized data centers will have going forward. But the idea of a bolt-on modular approach may have plenty for appeal for that vast majority of enterprises that still have their data centers on-premise—and want to keep them there.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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