Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, April 1, 2010

IT professionals get a look at data center container

About 200 information technology professionals from U-M and other non-profit organizations toured a modular data center container on Tuesday at Arbor Lakes.

Information and Technology Services (ITS) is investigating the use of container technology for data-storage space and high-performance computing (HPC) at U-M, including a new, shared HPC environment led by Dan Atkins, associate vice president for research cyberinfrastructure.

A modular data center container was set up for IT professionals to tour at Arbor Lakes. (Photo by Maria Sheler-Edwards, ITS Communications)

"Supporting the computing needs of researchers is an important focus for ITS. Compute-intensive research is rapidly expanding into all disciplines, and container technology can help leapfrog U-M into a leadership position in this arena," says Laura Patterson, associate vice president and chief information officer. "Container technology also provides the flexibility we need to consolidate smaller data centers while we develop our long-term computing strategy."

Made from a regular shipping container, a data center container is 20 or 40 feet long and holds computer racks, power and cooling equipment. ITS is planning to use Building 90 at the North Campus Research Center, where power and chilled water is already available, and will release an RFP for two containers later this year.

“Research shows that capital and operational costs are low when containers are loaded with high-density equipment, and deployment is also relatively faster than the usual ‘brick-and-mortar’ construction,” says Andy Palms, executive director of telecommunications, networking, and data centers for ITS. “While they’re not the solution for all data center needs, containers appear to be a good option for high-performance research computing clusters.”