IBM Adds Portable Data Centers to Its Catalog

Eighteen months after it quietly released them into the market for testing and production use, IBM announced at the Gartner Data Center Conference that it now has made available standalone portable data centers in industry-standard shipping containers.

IBM has added portable modular data centers to its long list of products and services.
Eighteen months after it quietly released them into the market for testing and production use, IBM announced Dec. 2 at the Gartner Data Center Conference in Las Vegas that it now has made generally available portable data centers in industry-standard shipping containers. They come in three sizes: 8 feet wide by 20 feet, 40 feet or 53 feet long.
An IBM Portable Modular Data Center (PMDC) provides a complete physical infrastructure, including power and cooling systems and remote monitoring, Steven Sams, Vice President of Site and Facilities for IBM Global Technology Services, told eWEEK.
"It also has all the elements of the secure operating environments found in traditional 'raised-floor' data centers, including protection from fire, smoke, humidity, condensation and temperature changes," Sams said. "The PMDC can support multiple vendors and systems in an industry-standard rack environment and enables complete access to both the front and rear of the IT equipment from within a physically and environmentally secure container."
The new portables come in three basic configurations:

  • IT-only PMDCs for servers storage and telecom gear. These containers include the cooling and power distribution systems, security and fire suppression systems to support the technology. They can support up to about 20 industry-standard racks.
  • Mechanical and electrical PMDCs that include chillers, batteries, UPS systems, and generators that provide an infrastructure to enable these self-contained data centers to be put anywhere.
  • Combination PMDCs, in which IT and the electrical and mechanical systems are contained in a single unit.

Sun Microsystems, SGI, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are among the highest-profile IT companies that already have portable data centers housed in shipping containers on the market.
What sets the IBM portables apart?
"They are different for about five reasons," Sams told eWEEK. "They support a wide range of operational conditions and can be placed in hot or cold environments. They're designed for continuous uninterrupted operations. Clients can add or replace servers and storage while the data center environment is maintained.
"Since the front and back of the technology can be accessed inside of the PMDC with a patented sliding racking system, we do not have to turn off the PMDC and open external access doors to get full access to change any technology inside."
The PMDCs are designed to be turnkey and require chilled water or conditioned power from undefined sources, Sams said.
"[They are] supported by 700 data center professionals from IBM globally that are solely focused on helping clients with their data center requirements," Sams said. "These local IBM teams can help the clients plan, design and install these portable data centers anywhere.
"[They have] open architecture: We can plug and play components from all of the major UPS, cooling, etc. vendors globally ensuring that each container is the best for the specific customer requirements," Sams said.
IBM has put together a partnership group to integrate products and services for the PMDCs that includes Anixter, APC by Schneider Electric, CommScope, Eaton Corp., Emerson Network Power, Panduit, Siemon, and Vette Corp., Sams said.
Will IBM hardware be exclusive -- or "preferred" -- for these modules?
"IBM builds hundreds of data centers for clients around the world every year," Sams told eWEEK. "IBM has a whole family of modular data center designs from small to very large and PMDC is just one of the members of the family.
"Although we would love it if every client wanted to install only IBM technology inside of those data centers, the reality is that we build data centers to support a wide range of technologies and vendors. The environments are designed to support what the client wants. We do have preconfigured PMDCs with IBM technology options including that can be provided very quickly."
For more information on the PMDCs, go here.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...