There’s been a longtime data-center trend that emphasizes flexibility over raw power. Install a couple racks of servers and support infrastructure in a shipping container (or other suitable box), transport to a new location, plug into the local power grid, and—abracadabra—instant data-center muscle.
That model’s helped companies handle unexpected needs for processing power (i.e., after a natural disaster) and leave a smaller environmental footprint. Now Dell’s getting into the game with the Tactical Mobile Data Center, a customizable data-center contained in a weather-resistant ISU-96 container. The manufacturer intends the platform for use by government and military customers, which is why it’s 3G Flight Certified for quick transport by fixed-wing airframes and commercial aircraft.
Inside the container, the Tactical Mobile Data Center includes an “IT Pack” with three 42U-15KW capacity server racks, power distribution units, data connections (fiber, copper, or BNC), and a customizable variety of Dell servers and storage. There’s also an “AC/UPS Pack” with battery backup and support for either structured or generated power feed, along with a glycol closed loop system for cooling.
The ISU-96 container itself features fire suppression and an emergency power switch, integrated high-density cooling with horizontal airflow, automatic backup ventilation, and intrusion detection and monitoring.
“Many of our military and government customers are forced to quickly deploy to remote environments, like combat outposts in Afghanistan, or even in more developed communities following a natural disaster,” Joe Ayers, vice president and general manager of Dell Federal, wrote in a July 17 statement. “In today’s operational environment, in order to have access to the tools and information most organizations need to accomplish their mission, they must also have a robust IT infrastructure.”
Other companies have been pursuing similar “data center in a box” initiatives. AOL, for example, recently announced its “Nibiru” project, which resulted in a low-maintenance data center roughly the size of a refrigerator. Although it’s incapable of powering a traditional, massive data center, that “Micro Data Center”(in AOL’s words) consumes far less power and can be installed pretty much anywhere with access to electricity.
The ability to widely distribute processing capability at low cost, with multiple smaller data centers in a variety of locations, could help lower any company’s operating expenses. A box parked behind a building doesn’t need much in terms of infrastructure-related expenses, or even support staff, and can be moved and re-parked pretty much at will. That flexibility is valuable to a number of organizations, including the federal government and the military.