IBM partnerships extend portable data center capabilities

IBM has extended partnerships with providers of data center infrastructure technology to expand the deployment of the company’s Portable Modular Data Center by businesses and government agencies worldwide.

IBM’s PMDC, introduced last year, provides a fully functional data center in a shipping container with a complete physical infrastructure including power and cooling systems, and remote monitoring.

IBM partners are providing equipment, and also their design expertise in power, cooling and networking, said Brian Canney, IBM’s global site and facilities services offering manager.

IBM is using multiple suppliers for several reasons, Canney said. IBM wants to be able to meet clients’ preference for specific vendors. Plus, some applications such as chillers and power units might be more efficient in smaller sizes that are better suited for containers than others. Moreover, if containers have to be deployed in countries such as Russia or Thailand, for example, IBM wants to make sure that suppliers can provide full support for their products in those locations, Canney said.

Companies working with IBM to integrate products and services with IBM’s PMDC include Anixter, APC by Schneider Electric, CommScope, Eaton, Emerson Network Power, Panduit, Siemon and Vette Corp.

The PMDC can be used as a mobile solution for disaster recovery, disaster avoidance, expansion of data center space and other mobile needs.

Deployment of the mobile data centers have picked up after a slow start as organizations assessed how they might use these data centers in a container, Canney said. IBM is seeing interest in PMDC from militaries worldwide and large government institutions, he noted.

“Some of the applications [in the government sector] are confidential, so we don’t even know what are the actual applications [used in the mobile data centers]. We ship the unit and the government institution takes over and does their own installation,” he said.

IBM’s PMDC has all the elements of the secure operating environments found in traditional, raised-floor data centers, including protection from fire, smoke, humidity, condensation and temperature changes.

The PMDC supports multiple technology vendors and multiple systems in an industry standard rack environment. To service and maintain IT equipment, “you can access the front or back of the rack while the container is closed and secure so you are not jeopardizing the physical security or environmental surroundings” of the data center, Canney said.

The modular offering has the ability to set up shop virtually anywhere, provided there is access to water electricity and telecommunications. IBM’s PMDC comes in 20-, 40-, and 53-foot containers, and can be deployed as a single all-in-one data center or multiple solutions. Starting price for a small 20-foot container starts around $450,000; larger containers can add a few million dollars, depending on the size and scope of the data center, Canney said.

Other vendors are offering containerized data centers to the government. For instance, NASA Ames Research Center has selected a containerized data center solution from Verari Systems and Cisco Systems, Inc. for the first phase of its Nebula Cloud Computing Platform.

Nebula is a seamless, self-service platform built from open-source software that provides high-capacity computing, storage, and network connectivity for NASA research. The containerized data center solution includes the Cisco Unified Computing System as well as Silicon Mechanics servers in Verari’s FOREST Container. This approach lets NASA Ames officials rapidly deploy a fully integrated IT infrastructure, including computing, storage, networking, virtualization, and systems management, NASA officials said.

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