HP Unveils Smaller Portable Data Centre


HP has unveiled a pint sized version of its container-based data centre, that can hold 10 racks of servers, storage and switching hardware

Hewlett-Packard have halved the size of its previous container-based data centre after it introduced a made-to-order 20-by-8-by-8-foot portable IT system called the Performance-Optimized Datacenter (POD).

The module can be placed in a car park or aboard ship, as well as stationed indoors to handle business IT workloads.

For about $600,000 (£377,280), a customer gets a fully enclosed, portable, ready-to-plug-in data centre frame that can hold 10 racks of servers, storage and switching hardware. It features all hookups for air, water and electrical power throughput as required by the hardware innards. The steel-framed POD can carry a maximum weight of about 50,000 pounds.

The price does not include IT; all hardware and software are separate costs. HP says it can get a POD built to request, tested, and up and running for workloads in about six weeks.


HP Product Manager Jean Brandau told eWEEK here that the 20-foot PODs quietly started being delivered in November 2009 to the first set of customers, which include organisations from virtually all vertical sectors (such as finance, education, oil and gas, government and health care) and all global regions.

“These are not beta customers,” Brandau said. “They’re real, paying customers using them in production environments.”

Portable IT systems like the POD are most often used for IT capacity expansion (about 40 percent of customers), Brandau said. Generally, the other uses involve IT scale-out (30 percent), custom military or communications use (20 percent) and disaster recovery (10 percent).

Key features of the HP 20-foot POD, as described by Brandau:

  • enables server density through support of up to 1,600 server nodes, or about 5,400 hard drives;
  • provides power capacity of more than 27,000 watts per rack;
  • uses full-depth, 19-inch standard technology racks;
  • provides the equivalent of 2,000 square feet in the 20-foot frame;
  • provides capability for very high density loads, using about 700 watts per square foot;
  • enables water and front-to-back air cooling as required by customer hardware;
  • delivers PUE (power usage effectiveness) ratio as low as 1.25; and
  • complete weatherisation allows it to be used anywhere.

“The PODs support all HP and most third-party, industry-standard hardware,” Brandau said. “We certainly know that most of our customers already have heterogeneous IT environments.”

This is not HP’s first crack at making a data centre in a box. Back in July 2008, it introduced its first such product, the 40-foot, 22-rack, train-car-sized POD, the size that most potential customers were interested in at the time. The 20-footer offers an alternative that might fit budgets better; the 40-foot POD costs $1.2 million (£754,560).

“There are a lot of companies that don’t need anywhere near 22 racks,” Brandau said. “So this 10-rack POD gives them a good choice.”

The idea of portable data centres housed in shipping container-sized boxes, introduced by Sun Microsystems with Project Blackbox in 2006, has long been an intriguing one for many enterprise IT decision makers.

Rackable Systems, IBM and a Dell-Microsoft partnership are building and selling similar portable data center modules.

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