James_2IBM announced Wednesday
that like Sun and Rackable before them, they will now be offering a Portable
Modular Data Center (PMDC) similar to Verari’s FOREST,
Blackbox, and Rackable’s ICE Cube and Concentro.
IBM also rolled out their
new Enterprise
Modular Data Center (EMDC) and Modular High Density Zone (MHDZ).

This data center-in-a-box is portable, stackable, and can be
deployed in as little at 12 to 14 weeks, says IBM. It supports an open architecture and
equipment from non-IBM vendors. IBM states that if you need to expand your data
center fast, but don’t have the space, the PMDC is worth considering.

Huh? A data center in the trailer of an 18-wheeler? What do
you do, park it outside next to your data center? How does this make sense? And
for whom?

What might seem like a crazy idea, actually has
sales behind it
. The primary buyers are the largest of the web giants
who value compute density and are buying servers by the thousands in a single purchase.
Containers allow them to achieve greater density with greater power and cooling
efficiency than traditional data center layouts can support. 

The question is, can these products widen their appeal to
enterprise buyers? Two scenarios quickly come to mind, and are supported by
customer references: 1.) Mobile data centers — containers are ideal for
locating a data center in temporary locations, such as a disaster site or a temporary
venue, like the upcoming Olympic Games; or, 2.) As short term expansion
capacity within the physical security perimeter of an existing data center
(perhaps to accommodate existing growth prior to the opening a new data
center). The configurability of these containers allows nearly any type of
rack-standard IT equipment to be housed within them delivering the flexibility
customers require.

But is this simply a niche market or does it portend the
data center of the future? Should your next data center look more like a
loading dock that can accommodate these highly efficient containers? It’s too
early to tell but so far their certainly isn’t a match for the density and
efficiency containers can deliver today. If you are planning to build a new
data center in the next two to five years, it behooves you to examine the
merits of containers and determine if this approach should be part of your

By James Staten

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