IBM Unveils Portable Data Center 'Pods'

IBM's answer to Sun's Blackbox and Microsoft and Rackable portables is designed to cut way back on power usage.

IBM the week of June 9 unveiled the next wave of Project Big Green, its $1 billion initiative to increase data center energy efficiency for itself and its clients.

IBM kicked off the initiative in May 2007. In August, it announced that it would consolidate about 3,900 of its own servers onto 33 virtualized System z mainframes running Linux to save electrical energy and cut back on its carbon footprint.
A carbon footprint is a representation of the effect human activities have on the climate in terms of the total amount of greenhouse gases produced, measured in units of carbon dioxide. Such a footprint is often expressed as tons of carbon dioxide or carbon emitted into the air, usually on an annual basis.
As the central focus of its next Big Green phase, IBM launched a series of software and hardware products-available beginning later in June-with accompanying services designed to lower the electrical power draw and heat output of data center equipment.
The new Portable Modular Data Center product line, informally called the Blue Pod line, consists of preconfigured building blocks for a green data center, as well as new servers, storage arrays and software to increase energy efficiency.
One of the key attributes of the Blue Pod line is a complete, fully functional turnkey data center in a portable package. Sun Microsystems (with its two-year-old Blackbox product), Rackable and Microsoft also have forms of this same kind of portable data center-either in 8-foot-by-20-foot or 8-foot-by-40-foot shipping cases.
"A fully functioning 'plug and play' data center can be designed, built and drop-shipped in as little as 12 to 14 weeks to any location in the world," Steve Sams, IBM vice president for site and facilities services worldwide, told eWEEK.
"The solution can include the complete data center infrastructure including IT racks, chiller unit, UPS and batteries, fire suppression system, power distribution, cooling units, and remote monitoring. The PMDC [Portable Modular Data Center] can cost up to 30 percent less to design and build compared to custom raised floor solutions, and can have up to a 50 percent smaller footprint."
The Blue Pod line also includes computing power from the cloud: IBM calls it Portable and Flexible Computing Power.
This is plug-and-play capability that enables fast deployment to just about any location worldwide, Sams said. The repeatable design can be deployed across multiple locations to create consistency, familiarity and ease of operation, and the modular design allows for scalability and growth for quick expansion of existing data centers.
"A PMDC [unit] can be installed on-site at remote offices, work sites, temporary work locations or disaster recovery sites. On-site installation only requires a power feed, water supply and a communications connection" to establish a fully functioning data center, Sams said.
The Blue Pods sport open architecture and industry-standard 19-inch racks and provide multivendor support of up to 1,428 blade servers or 1,178 IBM iDataPlex servers per container, Sams said.
Naturally, the PMDCs come with IBM services, which can include data center planning and design services, site preparation services, installation services, IT equipment relocation and installation services, system startup, and test services.

IBM also announced its participation in building a green data center at RackForce Networks, a hosting company in British Columbia that supports clients in the United States and Canada. When completed later in 2008, it will have 150,000 square feet of the latest energy-efficient technologies and will be one of the largest green data centers in the world, Sams said.
Over the past year, IBM has designed and built more than 40 green data centers across the world, Sams said.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger

Chris Preimesberger is Editor of Features & Analysis at eWEEK, responsible in large part for the publication's coverage areas. In his 12 years and more than 3,900 stories at eWEEK, he has...