Dell's Tactical Mobile Data Center (TMDC) has been designed for maximum portability, using the military standard ISU-96 container, which measures 10 feet wide by 10 feet long, said John Fitzgerald, CTO for Dell Federal. "This one was inspired by a customer request for something that blended in, something that didn't look like a data center. It's just one more option about how you can configure and deploy [servers]," he said.
One container holds what Dell calls an IT pack, consisting of three server racks with power distribution and data connections. A second houses an AC/UPS pack, which includes a glycol closed-loop system for cooling the IT pack and battery backup. The data center can be powered by electricity, where available, or by generators. Each container is equipped with fire suppression, emergency power-off, high-density cooling, backup ventilation, remote environmental monitoring (including video), intrusion monitoring, and controls for temperature, humidity, and airflow.
The containers are certified for air transport in military fixed-wing or commercial aircraft, and can withstand shifting during takeoffs and landings or flying through rough weather. They can also be transported by forklift, helicopter, rail car, and ship. Dell says they are not only weatherproof, but dust- and sand-proof, as well.
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Multiple units can be connected together, so the system can be expanded beyond a three-rack server configuration. And connection plugs for power and connectivity are on the outside, making it both easy and fast to dismantle hookups and move the units, an important consideration for military applications and emergency situations.
"The problem we're solving is how do you get the data and the computing power closer to the warrior," Fitzgerald said. "As you look at the explosion of data, information from drone planes, soldiers walking around with handhelds, [you've] got to get the processing power closer to them."
Physical proximity of computing power will support big data applications on the battlefield and in remote regions without requiring a WAN connection, Fitzgerald said. The TMDC could also be used by first responders, as well as for some commercial scenarios, he added.
While the TMDC is being introduced in this configuration, Fitzgerald said the mobile server container can be reconfigured to meet just about any requirement. If a military unit needs everything in a single container, a server rack comes out and the AC/USP unit can be put in its place. "These are like Lego building blocks," he said. "You can piece together what you need."