Art Wittmann


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Data Center On Wheels!

About a month ago, green computing vendor Rackable Systems announced ICE Cube. It's a data center in a tractor trailer, and it's pretty cool (pun intended). Rackable has a number of claims to fame. Individual systems don't have power supplies. They're also half the depth of typical rack systems, so the company mounts them back to back for space efficiency. In their trailers, a row of these half-depth servers (and storage systems) sits along each of the long walls, and that leaves a center isle large enough to work in.

Going itself one better, Rackable has removed the system fans from its devices destined for the ICE Cube -- instead, it uses large in-row fans between each rack of servers. The result is less power consumption and improved reliability.

So just how much of a data center is this? The numbers are impressive -- if you pack a 40-foot trailer with storage, you'll get up to 4 petabytes of data. If you pack it with servers, you can squeeze 1,400 of them in -- complete with UPS. If they're quad-core systems, that adds up to more than 11,000 cores.

Unfortunately, you can't just park this thing in a parking lot and run an extension cord and fiber optic cable to it. The cooling system requires an external chilled water supply, and that extension cord had better be a big one. Rackable says it can max out at 750 watts per square foot -- which is a good bit more than even the most advanced data centers. For a 40-by-8 trailer, that calculates out to 240 kilowatts -- BIG cord!

That said, Rackable claims 80% improved efficiency over classical data centers. The uses are what you'd expect. The government is interested (think Defense and Homeland Security), disaster recovery is a good use, peak load handling is a possibility, and the energy industry might want these things on site to analyze seismic data. And the cost -- $2 million to $4 million is a typical configuration.

Art Wittmann is a freelance journalist and writer with 30 years of experience in IT and IT journalism. Wittmann specializes in IT infrastructure, cloud computing and data center issues. Email him at artwittmann@yahoo.com Follow him on twitter @artwittmann


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