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Inside HP's prefab data center

Patrick Thibodeau | June 13, 2011
Hewlett-Packard had a cutout section of its modular data center on display at its user conference last week in Las Vegas. HP believes it will sell a lot of its EcoPODs as companies look for ways to replenish data center capacity.

The cutaway section of Hewlett-Packard's latest iteration of a prefabricated modular data center has a space-station-like feel to it.

It's all metal, with thick support beams, and has nothing in common with the shipping containers initially reused by the industry to create self-contained modular data centers.

What HP is calling the EcoPOD (Performance Optimized Data Centers) is all white, inside and out, and is about 25 feet high and 45 feet long, for about 1,000 square feet in total.

HP EcoPOD
A cutaway section of Hewlett-Packard's prefabricated modular data center called the EcoPOD was on display at the company's user conference in Las Vegas last week. (Photo by Patrick Thibodeau)

There's enough room in its interior for 44 standard, 19-in. racks split into two rows. The 50U racks (one rack unit is 1.75 inches high) almost touch the ceiling.

Bright LED lights make it easy to inspect the equipment, and there's plenty of room to move around the racks to inspect them. The environmental systems are on the roof, like a second floor.

HP had a cutout section of its modular data center on display at its big user conference last week in Las Vegas. The company believes it will sell a lot of these EcoPODs because of the dynamics of the data center industry.

In an Uptime Institute survey last month of 525 data center operators, 36% of the companies reported that they would run out of data center capacity sometime in the next 12 months. The data center association AFCOM found similar responses in its survey of 360 IT managers, with 29% reporting that they are expanding or building a new data center.

Last month, Cisco announced its entry into the data center market, with a 40-foot container.

Some of the first modular systems developed by the industry were essentially reused shipping containers. Google stacked them in its data centers, Lego-like.

A big advantage to the modular approach is the control it allows when it comes to energy use. HP said that the power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio for its data center can be as low as 1.05. PUE is a metric based on total facility power -- including the cooling system, UPS and lighting -- divided by the power used by the IT equipment, including servers, networking and storage hardware. A PUE ratio of 1 is ideal. The advanced cloud computing data centers are near that level, but most raised floor data centers used by corporations are nearly 2.0.

 

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