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5/2/2011
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Cisco Introduces Portable Data Centers

The Containerized Data Centers house 16 racks and include chilled water cooling systems for enterprises that need a quick, flexible, and mobile computing power.

Google's Oregon Data Center
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Slideshow: Google's Oregon Data Center
Cisco launched its Cisco Containerized Data Center on Monday aimed at enterprises that need a quick, flexible, and mobile data center.

The new Containerized Data Center is targeted to network customers who need a fast and flexible way to expand, complement, or replace traditional brick and mortar data centers, Cisco said.

Cisco follows the likes of Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Dell, Microsoft, and Oracle that already offer portable data centers. These mobile data centers are typically 20- to 40-foot containers packed with networking equipment that can easily be transported and modified with different components according to a client's needs.

"In this modular space and by building the containerized data center, we can differentiate and deploy different systems to different scales and equipment and combinations, so we have the flexibility to create more personalized data centers for customers," said Brian Koblenz, CTO for modular datacenters at Cisco, in an interview.

Cisco's Containerized Data Center, the first in a series of modular data center products that Cisco plans to offer, is a 40-foot, ISO-standard steel shipping container with 16 data center racks (eight on each side), each supporting 25 KWh of power. The data center are has a chilled water cooling system situated at the bottom of the container. Other portable data center's cooling systems are located above the servers, which creates a potential hazard for the equipment if the water leaks, according to Koblenz.

Cisco's new portable data centers can be used by government and commercial organizations for rapid deployment of mobile computing, disaster recovery, war zones, and support in remote areas, but they are can also be used as a complimentary data center for any organization. Industries Cisco is seeing a demand for these portable data centers include healthcare, oil and gas, education, and various aspects of government including the military.

During the economic downturn, Cisco saw many customers looking for a cost-effective and flexible data storage solution, said Keith Siracuse, manager and product marketing engineer at Cisco.

"To build traditional data center it takes a long time in terms of planning and approval, as well as getting capital for the buildings," Siracuse said in an interview. "This technology fits a more dynamic market model than the traditional brick and mortar data center and the recent economic downturn pushed folks to look into it more."

The Cisco container includes the Cisco Data Center Operations 360, which monitors rack temperature and offers real-time monitoring and historical reports for analysis. The software enables users to set the desired temperature range for each rack and it automatically adjusts fan speeds and water flow accordingly.

With power consumption an increasing concern with data centers, Cisco promotes the Containerized Data Center's power savings compared with more traditional data centers. It's data center has a power usage efficiency (PUE) of less than 1.25, whereas brick and mortar data centers typically have a PUE of 1.6 to 3.0. The lower the PUE, the more effective power is delivered to IT equipment and at a lower cost.

While Cisco created its portable data center to house its own products, its open platform allows users to utilize other technologies. Once an order is placed for the data center, it takes between 72 to 120 days to implement, Cisco says.

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