Exclusive: Dell Shows Off a Data Center — In a Briefcase!

Containerized data centers were the hot trend for server vendors last year, although the rate of adoption seems to be fairly slow. But a rep for Dell recently let me know that one of that company’s employees had essentially created a data center in a much smaller container –a 40-pound toolbox, to be exact — so I visited the company at one of its Austin offices yesterday to take a look. To be clear, it isn’t a production unit, nor is anyone totally sure how it could be used, but it was sweet to see what Jimmy Pike, director of system architecture at Dell’s Data Center Solutions division, had built in his garage.

Pike has crammed two servers running dual-core, 2.5 GHz Intel processors (Harpertown), 32 GB of memory, 4 TB of disk space for storage, a power supply, a 5-port Gigabit Ethernet Switch and even some solid-state drives into a metal box. The box consumes about 325 watts, is relatively portable and provides enough performance to act as a DNS server or a data center for a small business (although since it’s relatively portable, data theft becomes a distinct possibility.) Pike uses it to test ideas and software for clients of Dell’s Data Center Solutions’ Group, which sells custom-built servers to hyperscale computing clients such as Facebook. And despite what he says when I caught him off guard in the video, he got back to me today to revise the cost of building one of these yourself, to around $2,000. Check it out, and let us know how if y’all have ideas for practical applications.