Data centers in a box

IT takes a close look at shipping container-based data centers

  • Earthquake-ready data center: Twenty feet long and eight feet high, Sun's Modular Datacenter weighs up to 34,000 pounds and accommodates up to eight racks. Sun claims that it can be deployed 10 times faster than a traditional data center, and that it is remarkably durable. Sun confirmed the container's strength with an earthquake test on one of the world's largest shake tables.

  • Rackable on ICE: Rackable Systems named its portable data center the "ICE Cube," and designed it to accommodate up to 11,200 processing cores. Rackable targets its container at military applications, disaster recovery needs and basic data center expansions. The ICE Cube generally comes with Rackable servers, but can also be filled with BladeCenter boxes due to a partnership with IBM.

  • What do you think? Are containerized data centers the way of the future?

  • Big Blue thinks portable: IBM says its Portable Modular Data Center is designed for green-conscious businesses that want to cut pollution and energy costs. IBM boasts of protection from fire and extreme weather, and ability to support technology from multiple vendors. "The PMDC can be shipped and deployed into any environment and can support multiple technology vendors and multiple systems in an industry standard rack environment," IBM says.

  • Verari's extreme container: Verari Systems' Forest Container holds up to 11.5 petabytes of storage capacity or up to 1,400 servers, and has self-contained cooling or chilled water cooling. "The Forest Container was engineered to thrive under varied conditions - extreme temperatures, indoors, outdoors on a concrete slab or even over rough terrain," Verari says.

  • Microsoft's modular plans: Microsoft announced plans this year to build a two-floor data center in Chicago, where the first floor is populated by more than 150 containerized data centers, each holding 1,000 to 2,000 servers.

  • Would you buy a data center in a box? Modular, containerized data centers are starting to catch on. By packing storage and hundreds of servers (or more) into large shipping containers with self-contained cooling systems, IT vendors claim they can cut time of deployment and perhaps reduce energy use. Here's a look at how Microsoft and Google are approaching the issue, and a rundown of container products that you can buy today.

  • Google gets in the game: Last year, Google was awarded a patent for a modular data center that includes "an intermodal shipping container and computing systems mounted within the container." Additionally, several major IT vendors are already selling containerized data centers on the open market.

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