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IBM chases SMBs with custom data closets

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While a number of companies are peddling and about as few companies are buying containerized data centers, even a 20 foot shipping container is overkill for a compact data center at most small and medium businesses. And a 40 footer would end up just being a place where the IT staff hung out to play video games. What most SMBs need is on the order of a Porta Potty or two in terms of cubic footage, and they often need to cram their IT gear into unusual places.

And even midrange and larger companies that could do perfectly fine with a containerized data center cannot - for security as well as for egotistical and inertial reasons - bring themselves to put their computing gear into something that is inherently mobile.

And so IBM is rolling out a custom data center building service called the Scalable Modular Server Room, or SMSR for short, a companion to the Portable Modular Data Center, Big Blue's riff on containerized data centers, announced in December 2009. The SMSR is a smaller version of a product that IBM's Global Services and System and Technology Group tag-teamed on back in May 2007 called the Scalable Modular Data Center (SMDC), IBM's first pass at an energy efficient data center and part of its Big Green marketing push.

(Apparently, someone at IBM figured out that this sounded like a booger and they moved on to Smarter Planet. Which, by the way, doesn't sound like the Earth I know.

Because everything IBM does these days revolves around its Smarter Planet schmarketing campaign, the SMSR is about saving time, energy, and money, which as you know Einstein proved were all equivalent to money. The SMDC offering was aimed at setting up data centers in the range of 500 to 1,000 square feet, complete with servers, storage, and networking if customers want.

IBM says it can put an SMDC in place in somewhere between eight and twelve weeks and at a cost that is 15 per cent lower than a company typically pays to build a relatively small data center. With the SMSR, IBM is offering about the same speed and savings - but not as much as the containerized data centers, which have 25 to 30 per cent lower costs per square foot for design and construction compared to brick and mortar data centers - and is focusing on customers who need data closets on the order of 150 to 300 square feet.

Because IBM is all about growth and green markets, the SMSR was developed and rolled out first in India, where computer rooms are scattered hither and yon. The pilot program for the SMSR that was developed in India will be rolled out globally. Quite likely as part of a broader set of Smarter Planet announcement - including the first Power7-based servers - this month. IBM estimates that there are around 2 million server rooms globally ranging in size from 100 to 999 square feet that need to be better organized and made more secure against tampering, fire, and heat.

IBM Scalable Modular Server Room

The SMSR comes in three sizes. The basic configuration has room for three racks for servers, storage, and other hardware (126U of total usable capacity), delivers between 8 and 12 kilowatts of power, has an N+1 power (with uninterruptible power supplies) and cooling. It also has access control and a fire alarm, and is constructed of a fire resistant shell capable of repelling heat and flame for up to two hours.

The Optima configuration of the SMSR doesn't just offer scalable power, but also scalable cooling, ranging up to 30 kilowatts in both cases and starting at 20 kilowatts. This server room can wrap around and protect six IT racks and has 252U of usable capacity. IBM tosses in IP-based remote monitoring and critical alerts as part of the server room.

The Ultima configuration is maxed out at eight IT racks with a total of 336U of usable rack capacity and the 30 kilowatts of power and cooling.

Because you are never supposed to get away from your IT job when you go on vacation, IBM is also opening up a Smarter Planet exhibit at Epcot Center in DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida. The exhibit includes a Scalable Modular Data Center (the bigger and older brother to the server rooms just announced), which is hosting a virtual reality immersion game called Runtime, created by Disney's Imagineering corps and allowing - I kid you not - Epcot Center visitors to be transformed into personal avatars so they can "run, jump, and dance through a timeline of IBM's achievements in the history of computing." The extra computing resources humming inside the data center at Epcot will be World Community Grid to do medical and environmental research. ®

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