Portable data centers have generated a lot of headlines and discussion, but we've seen few of them deployed and in use. The notable exception thus far has been the Project Blackbox installation at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC) in Palo Alto, Calif.
That appears to be changing. Rackable says it has shipped three units of its new ICE Cube containerized data center to existing customers, and said it expects to ship three more units to federal customers by mid-2008. ICE Cube is a new version of Rackable's Concentro portable data center offering a denser server environment and the option of a 20-foot container size.
Possible uses for portable data centers include field deployment in remote areas, transitional use during data center expansions, rapid addition of capacity for fast-growing start-ups, and as a mobile command centers for disaster or humanitarian relief projects. At least one provider is customizing Blackboxes to provide disaster recovery for online casinos.
The original Rackable Concentro design used a 40 foot by 8 foot container, while Sun's Project Blackbox uses a 20 foot form factor. The company is also promising a faster delivery schedule for ICE (short for the "Integrated Concentro Environment"), saying it can design, build and deliver a fully populated ICE Cube to customers in a matter of weeks.
In the company's quarterly earnings conference call, Rackable executives also briefly addressed Google's recent patent award for a modular portable data center. Company officials said they had reviewed the patent and it was not a direct issue, saying "we are confident we do not infringe, nor do they infringe on us."