Cisco Enters Portable Data Centre Market

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The networking giant is moving into the portable container data centre market

One year ago, Internet pipe fitter Cisco Systems entered the data centre systems business with the introduction of the Unified Computing System, which features the company’s first-ever application server and includes all necessary data routing.

The UCS’ network-centric data centre infrastructure authorises partners such as EMC, BMC, NetApp, VMware and Intel to provide components that Cisco does not make.

 Now the Internet networking giant is moving its UCS into the portable container data center market, similar to what IBM, the former Sun Microsystems (now Oracle), Hewlett-Packard, Dell-Microsoft and SGI (formerly Rackable) have been doing for the last few years.

These portable data centres come in standard 40-by-8-feet and 20-by-8-feet shipping containers for transport on ships and trucks. All the necessary servers, storage and networking equipment are crammed into these containers; all that’s needed on location are electrical power and cooling-fluid sources.

This will give Cisco another way to sell its UCS—an IT package upon which the company is banking heavily to expand its market reach. A Cisco spokesperson issued the following statement on 12 March in answer to an eWEEK query: “Cisco’s data centre solution has been integrated into containers as way for our customers to quickly and easily deploy data centre capabilities. A natural evolution of this is the Cisco Containerized Data Center, although the exact form it will take has not yet been determined.”

HP and Oracle Sun make both 20- and 40-foot models; the others are generally focused on the full-sizers.

Generally, portable data centres are deployed for work done by military, science and high-performance enterprises. The frames and shells are very rugged and temperature-proof; some are being used in hot climates, such as the Middle East, and in hard-to-reach locations, such as oil and gas exploration locations. Some are used on ocean-going research vessels.

 With no fanfare, Cisco posted a downloadable data sheet on its corporate site introducing the Cisco Containerized Data Center. Here it is in PDF form.

Since Cisco is a software-producing company, one can be certain that if and when it does start shipping custom-made containerized data centres, the company will again rely on key partner-vendors to fulfill orders. Oddly, some of those partners will be companies already competing in the space, such as those mentioned above.

The IT partner business has been hard to figure for a long time, so this is nothing new. A company that competes directly with another on a co-op product like a portable data centre (which has a long list of specialized components) won’t think twice about buying a specific part from that competitor to complete the order.

It can be a win-win for the right “coopetitioners”. 

Cisco claims that by purchasing a portable data centre —which cost around $1.2 million for a 40-foot, fully loaded model and some $600,000 (£397,449) for a 20-footer—an enterprise can save 50 percent in capital expenses and 30 percent in operating expenses compared with a similar-sized, permanent land-based facility. But those are very general numbers.

For more information, go here.

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