HP Unveils Half-Size Containerized Data Center

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"We have some customers who are never going to need the 22 racks in a single [40-foot] container," said Jean Brandau, HP's POD product manager, explaining the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company's decision to add a smaller unit to its POD lineup. The smaller shipping containers are also easier for HP to transport to customers around the globe, she said.

The new POD comes with ten 50-unit industry standard server racks that support up to 1,600 server nodes or about 5,400 hard drives, and provides up to 290 kilowatts of non-redundant power capacity or 145 kilowatts of redundant capacity. Those racks support any industry standard IT hardware -- though Brandau said the company would "obviously prefer" customers to populate them with HP products.

HP introduced its 40-foot POD in July 2008 and Brandau said the company sold the first 20-foot POD to a customer last November.

The market for containerized data centers is still in its infancy, Brandau conceded. She wouldn't give specific sales figures, but said that HP has sold PODs into "most verticals and in every region." HP's competitors in the nascent containerized data center business include Microsoft, Dell, IBM, Rackable Systems, Verari Systems and recent Oracle acquisition Sun Microsystems.

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Interestingly, most POD customers have placed their units in fixed locations, according to Brandau. The mobility advantages appear to best translate to the speed with which HP is able to deliver a fully loaded POD rather than the emergence of roaming fleets of containerized data centers.

To that end, HP is able to deliver a POD to a U.S. customer in six weeks, or in 12 weeks to global customers, she said.

"We've also found that you can lower your construction costs by as much as 45 percent over traditional brick-and-mortar data centers," she said.

Other key benefits to going the containerized route include the ability to scale out IT quickly, better energy efficiency returns than with brick-and-mortar data center builds, and higher equipment density. The 20-foot POD actually slightly beats the 40-foot unit on density -- averaging 29 kilowatts per rack to the 40-foot POD's 27 kilowatts per rack, according to HP.

Pricing for a bare bones 20-foot POD without any IT equipment is $600,000, Brandau said. Such a unit would include industry standard server racks, power supply and fire suppression, and HP has shipped such empty shells to customers, as well as units fully loaded with HP equipment. The 40-foot POD is priced at $1.2 million.