Dell Makes Military Mobile Data Centre

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Rugged low-energy box of tricks

Dell has launched a highly mobile containerised data centre, aimed at military operations and emergency response teams.

The Tactical Mobile Data Center is a roughly ten-foot cube containing  servers, storage and networking, along with power supplies and cooling, which can cope with a harsh environment and which can be flown in, instead of being delivered by truck.

Very hostile if it drops on you

“One of the key drivers [behind the development of the Tactical Mobile Data Center] was being able to move it in and out of there quickly,” John Fitzgerald, CTO of Dell Federal, told eWEEK.

The concept of modular data centres built inside shipping containers was pioneered by Sun Microsystems, and picked up by other vendors including  specialists such as AST Modular, and  big vendors like IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Cisco Systems – as well as Dell.

Smaller modules have also been offered, including Elliptical’s single-rack enclosures on wheels, and AOL is planning to make itself independent of centralised infrastructure by using tiny rack-sized micro data centres.

Dell’s take is to make rugged boxes  able to cope with extreme temperatures. The units have simple connectors for external power, cooling and data, so they can be switched on quickly. The units have remote monitoring too, including video.

The units rely on a secondary power and cooling supply unit, and the first ones shown use liquid cooling (Glycol in a closed-loop system) so they are energy efficient and not affected by temperature. Dell showed off secondary units from Emerson Power providing the Glycol circulation and power, but said other secondary units from Dell have air cooling and direct free cooling.

The containers meet the ISU-96 standard and are weather-resistant, as well as certified for carriage on planes. Each container holds up to three 42U server racks, each of which has 15kW of power.  The racks can be loaded with Dell server and storage kit as well as fibre or copper network links.

Among the jobs the military micro centres will carry out is the processing of information from Predator drones. As well as making the containers portable, the standard size means they blend in well and will be less of a target.

The Tactical Mobile Data Center is available immediately for a price starting at $221,500 (£142k) – plus all the IT kit, and the AC power supply.

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