Cisco Enters Portable Containerized Data Center Market

Cisco's containerized data center includes 16 data center racks, each supporting 25 KWh of power, in all-new ISO-standard steel shipping containers, said Keith Siracuse, Cisco product marketing engineer.

The new containerized data centers target customers who need quick deployment, Siracuse said. "Brick-and-mortar data centers take two years to build," he said. "The Cisco containerized data center takes 120 days from the day the order is cut to get it to the customer site."

Portable containerized data centers are nothing new; Hewlett-Packard, Dell, SGI and Oracle via its Sun acquisition offer them as well. And they are more efficient than traditional data centers, Siracuse said. For instance, the Cisco containers have a Power Usage Effectiveness (PUE) of 1.05 to 1.30, which he said is the ratio of total power used by the data center compared to the power used to run the server, storage, switch and IT equipment. Brick-and-mortar data centers have a PUE rating of 1.6 to 2.0, he said.

Investment in containerized data center solutions is also easier in that they typically depreciate over seven years compared to the typical 20 years of a brick-and-mortar data center, said Brian Koblenz, CTO for Cisco's new modular data centers.

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Cisco's containerized data centers feature Cisco networking combined with technology from multiple partners, Siracuse said. "This is not just routers and switches," he said. "This is like building a normal data center. We provide the switches and routers, and work with partners to add the infrastructure such as the UPS, chillers and so on, just like anyone does with brick-and-mortar centers."

Cisco's containerized data centers are available for order through Cisco. Cisco is working with two systems integrators with extensive data center integration experience, Siracuse said. “Cisco is going to market with master integrators," he said. "Our channel partners can work with the master integrators. Solution providers can integrate customers' equipment into the containers, while the integrators handle the infrastructure."

The units can be configured with Cisco's UCS data center technology, which ties server, storage and networking into a single architecture. Customers can also order them configured with a vBlock storage architecture from VCE, the EMC-Cisco-VMware venture that builds storage infrastructures for virtualized and cloud environments, or with a NetApp FlexPod Modular Data Center Solution, he said.

Siracuse said Cisco built its containerized data center from the ground up with operational and cost efficiencies in mind. Each rack is individually cooled by bringing cool air from the top and circulating it downward instead of using a traditional hot aisle/cold aisle arrangement. Furthermore, chilled water is circulated under the floor of the container instead of from above to decrease the risk of leaks, he said.

All maintenance of the racks in the containers is done inside, with no doors on the sides of the containers included, he said. A track running down the center aisle makes it easy to use an optional dolly for moving equipment, he said.

Cisco is also including the option to either bring data and power cables through the front door of the container or up through the floor. "The government is interested in this feature because of the extra security," Siracuse said.