SGI Expands ICE Cube Containerized Data Center Line

SGI, which rolled out its first ICE Cube modular data center in 2007, is expanding its offerings. Until now, the ICE Cube has only offered SGI's half-depth Rackable servers. The upcoming Universal class of modular data center will be able to hold full-size servers and storage equipment from third-party vendors as well as from SGI.

SGI is expanding its ICE Cube containerized data center offerings to give customers more flexibility and extend the product's reach into the high-performance computing space.

SGI on May 27 introduced a Universal class of ICE Cube that can accommodate not only the company's entire server and storage line, but also systems from other vendors.

The company also is offering containerized data centers that can be cooled by air. Until now, SGI's 3-year-old ICE Cube offerings would only hold its Rackable line of half-depth servers and could only be cooled through a liquid system.

Being able to accommodate full-size systems opens up the containers to allow them to hold SGI's Altix UV and Altix ICE scale-out supercomputers and its entire InfiniteStorage line as well as servers from other vendors.

Click here for a look at containerized data centers from HP, IBM and others.

That opens up the potential customer base, according to Geoffrey Noer, senior director of product marketing at SGI. The half-depth setup was attractive to Internet companies such as Yahoo and Microsoft. With the full servers-and support for systems from other vendors-SGI can now move into other areas, such as the HPC space.

"Our market base has broadened considerably," Noer said in an interview. The Universal class of ICE Cube "really makes it possible for us to address every need that's out there," he said.

Modular data centers offer entire IT infrastructures in standard 20- to 40-foot containers that can be shipped on the back of a tractor-trailer. The idea is to give businesses an alternative to building new facilities when the need for more data center capacity arises.

"It's really a fraction of the cost of a brick-and-mortar facility," Noer said.

They have been around in one form or another for many years, but modular data centers became popularized when Sun Microsystems introduced its Project Blackbox in 2006. Since then, a host of systems vendors-including IBM, Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Verari Systems-have unveiled their own offerings.

Rackable Systems, now SGI, introduced the ICE Cube in 2007.

Universal ICE Cubes can offer roll-in cabinets or fixed racks, density increases from 41,760 cores to 46,080 cores and 29.8 petabytes of storage. The air-cooled container model uses filtered air from outside and supports up to eight racks, 16,896 cores and 7.9 petabytes in a 20-foot space. SGI can also offer a hybrid environment of full-size and half-depth systems.

The new offerings will be available in the third quarter.

Analysts have called the modular data centers a niche space, though one that has the potential to grow to annual shipments of 300 to 350 by 2013, according to IDC.