Cisco Unveils Its First Containerized Data Center

By Chris Preimesberger  |  Posted 2011-05-02 Print this article Print

First announced a year ago, the portable, modular data center is designed expressly for remote military and scientific workload processing.

Cisco Systems famously shut down one of its businesses recently when it closed the Flip camera operation, but it is also expanding in other sectors-namely, the data center arena.

Now the Internet networking giant is moving its Unified Computing System, or UCS, into the portable container data center market, similar to what IBM, the former Sun Microsystems (now part of Oracle), Hewlett-Packard, Dell-Microsoft and SGI (formerly Rackable) have been doing for the last seven or eight years.

On May 2 the company said it has now made available the Cisco Containerized Data Center as an alternative to address the computing and networking needs of both public and private sector organizations. This intended development was first announced in March 2010.

This gives Cisco another way to sell its UCS-a pre-configured IT hardware and software package upon which the company has been banking heavily to expand its market reach. The UCS' network-centric data center infrastructure authorizes partners such as EMC, BMC, NetApp, VMware and Intel to provide components that Cisco does not make.

These portable data centers come in standard 40 by 8 feet and smaller-size 20 by 8 feet shipping containers for transport on ships and trucks. All the necessary servers, storage and networking equipment are crammed into these containers; all that's needed on location are electrical power and cooling-fluid sources.

The Containerized Data Center provides an enclosure for each of its 16 racks. The chilled liquid cooling system enables each rack to be assigned different operational temperatures and thresholds.

HP and Oracle Sun make both 20- and 40-foot models; the others are generally focused on the full-sizers.

Mostly Used for Remote Military, Science Projects

Generally, portable data centers are deployed for work done by military, science and high-performance enterprises. The frames and shells are very rugged and temperature-proof; some are being used in hot climates, such as the Middle East, and in hard-to-reach locations, such as oil and gas exploration locations. Some are used on ocean-going research vessels.

Designed and manufactured in the United States, the Cisco Containerized Data Center is a modular data center solution in a weatherized ISO container that offers an open architecture and transportable platform coupled with a unique management platform for cost-effective data center deployments.

Cisco claims that by purchasing a portable data center-which costs around $1.2 million for a 40-foot, fully loaded model and some $600,000 for a 20-footer-an enterprise can save 50 percent in capital expenses and 30 percent in operating expenses compared with a similar-sized, permanent land-based facility. Those are very generalized numbers, however.


Chris Preimesberger Chris Preimesberger was named Editor-in-Chief of Features & Analysis at eWEEK in November 2011. Previously he served eWEEK as Senior Writer, covering a range of IT sectors that include data center systems, cloud computing, storage, virtualization, green IT, e-discovery and IT governance. His blog, Storage Station, is considered a go-to information source. Chris won a national Folio Award for magazine writing in November 2011 for a cover story on and CEO-founder Marc Benioff, and he has served as a judge for the SIIA Codie Awards since 2005. In previous IT journalism, Chris was a founding editor of both IT Manager's Journal and and was managing editor of Software Development magazine. His diverse resume also includes: sportswriter for the Los Angeles Daily News, covering NCAA and NBA basketball, television critic for the Palo Alto Times Tribune, and Sports Information Director at Stanford University. He has served as a correspondent for The Associated Press, covering Stanford and NCAA tournament basketball, since 1983. He has covered a number of major events, including the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a Presidential press conference at the White House in 1993, the Emmy Awards (three times), two Rose Bowls, the Fiesta Bowl, several NCAA men's and women's basketball tournaments, a Formula One Grand Prix auto race, a heavyweight boxing championship bout (Ali vs. Spinks, 1978), and the 1985 Super Bowl. A 1975 graduate of Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., Chris has won more than a dozen regional and national awards for his work. He and his wife, Rebecca, have four children and reside in Redwood City, Calif.Follow on Twitter: editingwhiz

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