Dell Unveils Double-Decker Container

Six months after the first reports emerged, Dell has admitted that it has admitted that it has a data center container. Ashlee Vance has the story at The New York Times. The admission comes with a twist: Dell has taken the double-decker approach. An excerpt:

Whereas competitors have put all of the requisite technology components into a single container, Dell has gone with the double-decker idea. One container is full of server, storage and networking systems, while another container handles power and cooling. By using this design, Dell claims it can stick with standard equipment across the board, saving customers money and making it easier to upgrade the units. Each set of containers holds about 1,300 servers and consumes about as much power as the homes making up a suburban subdivision. The cost can easily top $500,000.

This configuration aligns closely with Microsoft’s Generation 4 Modular Data Center and its vision for containerizing the mechanical equipment for its facilities, as well as the servers.

It’s no surprise, then, that Forrest Norrod of Dell’s Data Center Solutions business confirms to the Times that Dell’s first containers are being used in Microsoft’s huge Chicago container farm data center. Dell had previously announced that its servers were powering Windows Azure, Microsoft’s development platform for cloud computing, which is based in Quincy, Washington.

Microsoft says the Chicago data center will eventually include 150 to 200 containers packed with upwards of 400,000 servers. That’s a staggering amount of business, probably representing the single largest server sales opportunity in today’s marketplace.

Dell has captured a chunk of that deal. Microsoft is known to have also previewed containers from Rackable Systems (RACK ) and Verari Systems. Is Microsoft using more than one container provider for its huge Chicago project?

We’ve wondered about this before, but Microsoft has never announced a winner. In discussing its Generation 4 plan, the company says it envisions a “competitive and innovative supplier landscape.” In other words, container competition is good. Especially for Microsoft.

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About the Author

Rich Miller is the founder and editor at large of Data Center Knowledge, and has been reporting on the data center sector since 2000. He has tracked the growing impact of high-density computing on the power and cooling of data centers, and the resulting push for improved energy efficiency in these facilities.

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