Custom Baby Data Centers Coming from Big Blue
March 1, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
If you are like many midrange shops, your data center–or what might be more accurately described as a data closet if you are lucky–is a bit informal. The AS/400 and its progeny were invented to be office systems, excepting the very largest machines. They are rugged enough to be tucked almost anywhere and use regular wall power, which means they are often running in the most bizarre places. But this is the 21st century, and you probably ought to have your IT equipment in a safer and more secure location.
That’s why IBM’s data center engineers have cooked up a little something called the Scalable Modular Server Room, or SMSR for short, to bring security, fire prevention, and order to the IT facilities operated by small and midrange businesses. Somewhat annoyingly, this data center service, which is not a Systems and Technology product but rather comes out of IBM’s Integrated Technology Services division of the Global Services group, is coming out first in India, not the United States. (The same thing happened with the Smart Cube Linux and i appliance servers, you will remember, but eventually after a beta test run, the Smart Cubes made it to the States.) The reason why IBM is starting in India with the SMSR is simple: there are many fast-growing startups and large companies that have shoddy infrastructure and they have the cash to upgrade. Established companies in North America and Europe might need better facilities as well as servers, but they don’t have extra cash lying around and they will make do. IBM cites some IDC stats that there are over 2 million server rooms in India that have between 100 and 1,000 square feet of space. My guess is there is an order of magnitude more in North America.
The SMSR comes in three sizes as IBM has currently packaged up the offering. Here’s what they look like, conceptually, from architectural drawings:
The Basic configuration of the SMSR is a raised-floor room that has enough space for three standard server racks (with 126U of space in the racks for servers, storage, and networking gear) and can deliver between 8 and 12 kilowatts of power to the server room. The SMSR is equipped with N+1 uninterruptible power supplies and appropriate cooling, and includes electronic access controls at the door and a fire alarm. The shell of the SMSR is meant to be fire resistant for up to two hours, so if your overall facility catches fire, the IT gear is a bit safer than other areas might be.
With the Optima configuration of the SMSR, the server room is larger and can host six server racks (252U of capacity). The room has 20 kilowatts of power that can scale up to 30 kilowatts, and the cooling systems for the room are designed to scale in that range as well so as to not cook your gear. The setup has the same N+1 UPS and cooling systems, the same fire-resistant shell and fire alarm, but adds in remote monitoring over the Internet for critical alerts.
The Ultima configuration comes with eight spaces (or 336U) of IT gear capacity and comes ready to handle a 30 kilowatt load and cool it; there’s no extra power or cooling beyond this.
This being a service (even though it is obviously a product if you don’t think like IBM), there is no price associated with it. No word on when we might see the SMSR delivered in North America, Europe, or in Australia/New Zealand, but I would be willing to bet Sam Palmisano’s last dollar that China and other hot-growing and emerging markets like Russia, Brazil, and so on, get the SMSR next after India.