Amid the building buzz around containers, one of the earliest entrants in the mobile data center sector has sold its first unit. San Francisco General Hospital has purchased APC's first InfraStruXure Express, a fully mobile data center in a 53-foot long trailer. APC introduced the "data center on wheels" in October 2004, a full two years before Sun Microsystems unveiled Project Blackbox.
The hospital will use the portable data center as expansion space while San Francisco General builds a new data center as part of a major rebuilding project. The new hospital facilities may not be completed until at least 2012, and perhaps 2015 - hence the need for InfraStruXure Express. The unit includes a network operations center (NOC), two Symmetra UPS systems, in-row cooling, and 11 NetShelter enclosures providing up to 500U of space.
"They are completely maxed out (of data center space)" said Dan Whelan of APC, part of the team that helped the hospital purchase and install the unit. The Gordon & Betty Moore Foundation provided a grant to support San Francisco General's purchase of the InfraStruXure Express.
The staff at San Francisco General spent a year considering different options for temporary data space, and reviewed other modular data center solutions, according to Whelan. Although two of the leading providers of container-based data centers are within a short drive of San Francisco - Sun is in Santa Clara, while Rackable Systems is in Fremont - the hospital went with the InfraStruXure Express, which has often parked behind APC's headquarters in West Kingston, Rhode Island.
"They looked at everything else, and this was the only solution that was completely turn-key," he said. A factor that may have helped APC is the fact that San Francisco General hasn't standardized on particular provider's gear. "APC doesn't have server vendors tie-in, which allows the flexibility to use what you please," said Whalen.
The InfraStruXure Express unit was installed in February, with San Francisco General using just the trailer, and not the truck cab that was also available. APC has a team of support specialist available for the unit, but all has gone well thus far.
Whelan said APC has gotten more inquiries about InfraStruXure Express as interest has grown in container solutions being implemented by Microsoft and others. He said it would take about three months to prepare another unit for delivery.