HP POD / Performance Optimized Datacenter

A short while ago, HP had announced the data center in a container.

Like the project BlackBox (Modular Data Center) from Oracle/SUN it is a cool concept. The approach might seem a bit similar. Stick a bunch of computers and infrastructure in a movable container (not mobile in the sense you pick it up and move it somewhere else very easily) and try to sell it as a modular concept to customers.
In both HP and Oracle/SUN’s case, there a couple of use cases for equipment like this. Rapid (unexpected) growth, temporary large scale projects (like render farms) are mentioned as use case the most. Disaster recovery might also be an option, but I would expect nobody is willing to flash the creditcard for a “spare” container of this kind.

At the HP Media Event in Barcelona I’ve heard people talk about a scenario where you would not be getting any new building permits for expanding/extending your current data center complex, and this type of PODs would be a good way of providing a work-around for this problem.  So there’s plenty of use cases here. All you need is “Water, Power and a big wallet”.

The one thing I am sure of is the philosophy HP has in creating this POD is way different than the Oracle/SUN Modular Datacenter.  HP make it clear they want to change the way we are using our computing power. The want to be the Henry Ford of datacenter assembly. For those of you who have no clue what that means, check this link.
In essence, HP can assemble a server every 12 seconds and a multiple completely packed PODs within a few weeks. The time of waiting weeks or even months for your new equipment is over, or so HP says.  Whether or not they will have assembly line pricing is unclear, but this is not my arena, so I will make assumptions here.

Size matters

The POD will be available in two sizes,  20 feet ( approx 6 meters) long or 40 feet ( approx 12 meters) long. There will be 500 U’s or a 1000 U’s available you can fill up to your match your needs, as long as it is all standard 19″ rack mountable gear. But be sure to do some very thorough planning, because once equipped and delivered you will be stuck with it for some time. You can replace some bits and pieces here and there, like a broken server or switch, but that’s pretty much it. Part of the reason is that the complete POD will be cabled en designed to your needs, and the POD itself offers very little space to be squeezing in new cabling in anyway.

All the Barcelona attendees were able to visit the POD to get a real life experience. I was somewhat late and they already switched off the generator, so the POD was silent and lacking all the data center noise you all love. There was only half a rack filled with equipment, because it was just about demonstrating the concept so it wouldn’t have been all that fun for me anyway. In the event area, there was a scale model though, which gave a pretty good impression. Just look at this picture here. It shows only servers, but like I said, you can put anything in there you want, as long as it fits into a standard 19″ rack with no more than about 40U’s of height. I have found some more than decent pictures at this “The ServerRoom’s ” Flickr page.

Besides the practical use of a POD, there is also the placement of one. Where are you going to put it when you are in need of a POD?

If you put it in the parking lot of your company, you will need some additional security measures to make sure no one is paying your data center an unwanted visit. Besides this, there is also the exposure to the forces of nature. You will need to make sure your POD is able to survive harsh winters or extremely hot somers. You don’t want your POD to end up like this.


You might be better of putting the POD in a warehouse type of building if you happen to have such a place. Collocating with other PODders might be more convenient. Anyway, besides the use case of a POD or Modular Data Center you will still have to arrange the utilities required to place a POD. So not only the POD itself requires careful planning, but how and were to put a POD does as well. This is obviously true for all your data center activities.

I am looking forward to hearing about some real life use case examples, so please post a comment if you have a interesting case to report.

I have found a website listing a bunch of data center boxes. Some I’ve never even heard of. Just goes to show that HP and Oracle/SUN are  definitely not alone in this arena. A couple of links were outdated so I scraped some recent and working links together and put them below for you.

If you have some more vendors to add to this list, please do so. I will appreciate it.

You can comment here, or on twitter, whichever you prefer.

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Ilja Coolen

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10 2010

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