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

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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.

20 Responses to “Exclusive: Dell Shows Off a Data Center — In a Briefcase!”

  1. You may want to rephrase this quote:

    “provides enough performance to act as a DNS server or a data center for a small business”.

    DNS server for a small business? He could easily run several DNS servers, and a load more of other VMs running every service under the sun if he virtualized that platform.

  2. Is this a data center or just a high end server? When I think about data centers I picture an earthquake-proof facility, with high end biometric security, automated NOC, redundant OC48 pipes from different providers and redundant power generators. How is Jimmy’s project a Data Center?

    • Agreed. I think it’s a couple of servers in a box, not a data center. With virtualization software, presumably it can act like a dozen or more servers, but that still does not qualify as a “data center” in my book.
      All of which is not to say that it’s not interesting. It is; it’s just misnamed.