Hewlett-Packard is the latest vendor to put computing in a can.
HP unveiled its own modular data center called POD, or Performance Optimized Data Center, July 16. The HP version of a mobile data center is an 8-foot-by-40-foot container that can pack up to 3,500 compute nodes or 12,000 hot-plug, large form factor hard disk drives into rows of industry-standard 19-inch racks.
The HP POD will be available in October, but the company has not set prices as of yet.
While HP sells the types of servers, storage and switches needed to outfit a mobile center, Paul Miller, vice president of marketing for HP Enterprise Storage and Servers, said Hewlett-Packard would remain hardware agnostic when it comes to designing, creating and selling the HP POD.
The HP POD is the company’s latest offering for high-density data centers that are being built to support Web 2.0 applications and businesses, cloud computing, high-performance computing and the IT infrastructures needed for massive server farms.
“At HP, we are very interested in building out the cloud,” said Miller. “Whether it’s Web 2.0 or traditional businesses that want to create an enterprise cloud, we are investing in being that company that enables customers to enable these cloud technologies quicker, faster and cheaper than anyone else.”
HP, along with several other top-tier vendors, has been trying to offer a combination of hardware, software and services to build out these infrastructures. In recent weeks, HP began selling a new blade that was specifically designed for a cloud computing infrastructure and signed a contract with the U.S. Department of Defense to build a cloud infrastructure for the military.
The fact that now HP, IBM, Sun Microsystems and other smaller players, such as Rackable Systems, are all in this market seems to have validated this nontraditional approach to adding more compute capacity to an existing data center or building out an entirely new structure.
It is yet to be determined if this new style of data center will actually results in sales.
“There seems to be a growing interest in this integrated, containerized-style data center offering,” said Charles King, an analyst with Pund-IT Research. “I’m not hearing of anyone selling a huge number of these things. It’s more of an interest in a form factor that is very useful for some very specific kinds of applications and environments, but I don’t think that anyone has a dedicated manufacturing line that is spitting these out on a daily or weekly basis.”
That is a reality that HP accepts, said Deb Nelson, senior vice president of marketing and alliances for HP’s Technology and Solutions Group. Nelson added that she doesn’t see the POD technology as something that HP will sell a lot of since businesses don’t often need 5,000 square feet of extra data center space and technology as quickly as possible.
“This is not a high-volume play,” Nelson said in an interview with eWEEK. “But for people who need it, it’s really critical.”
Hardware, Software and Services
Where HP is looking to distinguish itself from the others is with services.
Miller stressed that HP plans to use the expertise from its EYP data center consulting division to provide the planning and engineering services needed to balance the needs between data center containers and traditional brick-and-mortar facilities.
In that case, HP’s main competition is IBM, which also has an extensive services division and recently announced its own mobile data center that uses the company’s specially designed iDataPlex array. IBM has also scored a major customer for its cloud computing solution in the form of Microsoft.
In the long run, HP is hoping that its POD becomes one of several tools that businesses use to create a cloud or a Web 2.0 infrastructure. While this type of use seems at least several years away from being a full-fledged reality , HP can still offer its POD data center as a quick way to build out an enterprise’s compute capacity or as an alternative for creating a backup data center in case of a disaster.
When the POD goes into production, HP estimates it will take six week to build one container once the order is received.
HP is also looking to make the POD container as energy efficient as possible. According to the company’s own benchmarks, the POD offers a PUE, or a Power Usage Effectiveness, of 1.25. The PUE was developed by the Green Grid as a way to measure the difference between the amount of power that actually drives the IT hardware components of a data center versus the power used for components such as cooling and lighting.
In most other traditional data centers, the PUE standards around 1.9 or 2.0, Miller said.
Editor’s Note: Senior News Editor Jeff Burt contributed to this article.