Introducing HP's addition to the Datacenter In A Box Market, the HP POD (Portable Optimized Datacenter)

I'm having a conference call with HPers Erin Collopy and Steve Cumings about HP's sexy new Datacenter In a Box, the HP POD. Erin is PR/AR Manager at HP Enterprise Storage & Servers, Steve is Director of Scalable Computing & Infrastructure (SCI).


  • Why a datacenter in a box? The market feels pretty crowded already with Sun's Blackbox, IBM's Portable Modular Datacenter, APC's InfraStruXure Express, and Rackable's ICE Cube.

    Steve Cumings: Well, our new product, the POD (Portable Optimized Datacenter) has been driven entirely from customer feedback while working with EYP. While exploring the designs for a portable datacenter, the common complaints we received from our enterprise customers was the lack of power, cooling, and space in their datacenters. Density crept up on them, and by the time they realized they had a constraint, they were typically faced with 12-24 months of build-time. Energy costs have sky-rocketed, and therefore everybody is clamoring for energy efficiency.
  • What else is driving this need for your customers? What other pains have they expressed that can be solved by the POD?

    Steve Cumings: Our customers have a big focus on CAPEX right now. With the economy softening, capital is at a premium, and as you know datacenters are expensive, ranging from $800-$1,200 per square ft in construction costs. When a customer builds out a datacenter, they're not just building for today's needs, but typically three-five years out. We've created a way for our customers to buy for today's needs, and have a solid plan to build out as they grow, or their needs change, without building out space for 2013.

    We spent a lot of time talking to customers about what they'd like to see in a container environment. The recurring theme was, "Don't give me a container that limits my ability to put different types of IT in.. I need to be able to recreate my existing datacenter environment with a minimum of pain".
  • OK, give me the nitty gritty. I haven't been inside an HP POD yet, what should I expect?

    Steve Cumings: Well, to begin with, we wanted to make sure the POD can handle any equipment a customer could throw at us. Inside you'll find 22 industry-standard 19" square-holed, each of them 36 inches deep, with 50U of useable space per rack. We give another 36" of floor space in the cold-aisle and about 12" of space in the back. The walls of the container open for access to the hot-aisle, which can be opened while the datacenter is in operation with no ill-effects.
    HP POD Interior view1
  • Tell me about capacity. In fact, just give me the quick run-down of all the stats on the 40' container.

    Steve Cumings:
    • 22 x 50U, 19-inch full-depth industry-standard racks support HP and other companies' servers.
    • Support for 3,520 compute nodes,12,000 LFF drives, or any combination
    • 1,800+ watts/square foot, compared to 150 - 250 watts/square foot in a typical data center
    • 600kW+ of capacity
    • Pre-integrated, configured and tested before shipment; shipped worldwide in six weeks from receipt of order.
    • Energy efficiency of PUE ratio <1.25 (1.07 excluding chiller)
  • Something about my math isn't working here. How do you put 3,520 blades into 1100U of rack space? I'm counting half that?

    Erin Collopy: We are able to achieve that density though our double dense 2in1 blade, the BL2x220C Steve Cumings:With the double-density blades, we're able to put over 7,000 processors, and 28,000 cores in a single container

  • Now I'm impressed. That's like having all of Facebook's processing requirements on the back of a semi-truck. 1,800 watts per square foot is impressively dense! That sounds like a breeder-reactor. How do you cool that much heat?

    Steve Cumings: To start with, we built fully isolated hot and cold aisles. This is why we went with the 50U racks, to make it easy to separate the cooling zones. The exhaust is ducted directly outside.
  • I'm sold. When can I buy one?

    Steve Cumings: The Pod will be marching in October domestically, and internationally by March of 2009. We are accepting orders today, of course.
  • Of course! Now tell me about the customer experience. I'm sold, and I call you up tomorrow telling you I want one of these. What happens next?

    Steve Cumings: Customers interested in the POD solution will work closely with EYP for design and integration. We have some pre-specified all HP solutions we can sell you, or we'll work with you for the best design and placement of your hardware into our environment. Our services group can handle everything from facility specification, hardware installation, and full integration. After deployment, we can even manage the whole pod for you. EYP will make sure that every piece of equipment getting installed will be properly powered and cooled to manufacturer specifications.
  • What kind of turn-around time am I looking at?

    Steve Cumings: Once the specifications are in, and the order has been placed, we're aiming for a 6-week turn-around time from order until the time it ships. This includes full installation and integration of all your equipment through Factory Express.
  • Where do I install something like this? Is the POD meant to only be installed in-doors, or can I place this in my back yard?

    Steve Cumings: The POD is weather-proofed by design, and while we expect most of our customers will be deploying them under structures or in warehouses, it can be fully-deployed in any greenfield environment.

  • So imagine I were a large CDN trying to place my equipment in locations that were strategic for power costs and routing concerns. Say I were to buy a piece of land in the Dalles, get the utility run to it, and order one of these, EYP would tell me where to put it, how to best support it on the ground, and handle the rest of the questions I'd have around power and cooling?

    Erin Collopy: That really would be a green-field!

    Steve Cumings: Exactly. This is one great application for the POD. We're expecting our customers to use these for fast, and fluid datacenter placement.

  • Maybe I'll just have to drive around and look at lots for sale next week while I'm in Oregon for OSCON.
  • How is cooling handled? Do you have an option for a fully-enclosed unit, or does my cooling need to be external?

    Steve Cumings: You do need an external chilled water source. HP has opted not to get into the market of selling Chillers, but EYP is experienced with many chiller vendors, and can help facilitate that process during the site assessment phase. As for the chilled water source, typically when you say chilled water, you're talking about water that's 45F-55F. We run our cold aisles within manufacturer specifications at ~90F. The temperature of the water coming into the cooling system only needs to be chilled to around 65-70F.
  • OK, now sell me. Why should I buy HP's POD instead of Sun's Blackbox or Rackable's ICEcube?

    Steve Cumings: We have 3 major differences.
    1. Conventional IP access and industry standard space. There's enough space to put your hardware in with our 36" racks and high density power. The POD is the equivalent of an average-density 4,000 square ft commercial datacenter.
    2. Turn-around time Six weeks after you cut a PO, you'll be up and running.
    3. Deployment.
    4. Energy Efficiency. Our PUE ratio is fantastic. Brick & Mortar datacenters are around a 1.9-2.0 PUE ratio. This means you end up paying for about twice the power that you actually need to run your equipment. The POD's official PUE ratio is 1.25 or less.
    5. Integration. EYP has worked to integrate the POD management systems with all of the top BMS vendors.
  • Last question. How much is this going to cost me?

    Steve Cumings: I'm afraid you're going to have to wait until October for that answer. Erin Collopy: We just did a sneak-peak at the POD today, driving it around the bay area with a prize for people who spotted the POD. In October we'll be demoing the POD in major cities across the country, and I'll keep you informed as to when and where you'll be able to tour one of these. More information about the HP POD can be found on HP's Website and in the Press Release.
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