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Hp' s Discover conference in Las Vegas saw the company launch its EcoPOD data center.

The EcoPOD has been 2 years in design. For Peter Gross, VP and Managing Partner, Technology Consulting at hp, the system is the future of mid-sized data centers. 'The data center industry is poised to grow dramatically in the next three years, so we need to be equipped to respond to a whole slew of different requirements. I believe the EcoPOD is perfectly positioned to address these cost, speed, flexilbility and energy efficiency demands.'

The departure with the EcoPOD 240a, as the launch model is branded, says hp, is that it is not a data center addition but is a true alternative to traditional brick and mortar design for mid-sized builds.

So how far from a traditional deployment have we come?
The EcoPOD is an air cooled, standalone data center. The 240a can deliver up to 1.2MW of power. It can be deployed in 12 weeks at a cost that is significantly below that of a traditionally designed and constructed solution.

Mark Potter, senior vice president and worldwide general manager of the Infrastructure Software and BladeSystem organization in the Enterprise Servers Storage and Networking business at hp says it can pack a $33m, 10,000 sq ft data center into a 900 sq ft module for around $8m.

It houses 44 racks and carries 4,400 servers.  Hp says that it can deliver a PUE of 1.05 so running at hyper efficiency compared with existing brick and mortar facilities which it says average a PUE of 2.4.

So what we are promised is all the attributes of a traditional data center in a pre-packed format which is faster to specify, deploy, commission and operate. It, says hp, will run at greater efficiency saving up to 95% of the energy used.

So how can such a reduction be achieved?
Some specifications for the data center are as follows: The deployment speed is achieved, the company says, because it has dedicated POD works. These are manufacturing bases in the US and in Erskine in Scotland. This can mean an order to delivery time of around 12 weeks. This is the same timeframe for HP's POD, its containerised offering as it is for IBM, which promises the same timeframe for its Portable Modular Data Center, its containerised data solution.

The EcoPOD efficiency is in the basic design. This is where the main differences lie. By opting for an air cooled container, hp says it can apply 'free' ambient outside air cooling. The 240a design sees hp use 24 dual fan DX units. Air is drawn in from above, into two cold aisles which run each side of the 8ft wide shared service contained hot aisle. This air is pushed through the IT into a hot aisle and exhausted back through the roof.

Hp's adaptive cooling technology controls the airflow and temperature directly against the required workflow. It is this adaptive cooling that delivers the very low PUE.

What can it be used for?
Hp is at pains to point out that the system scales. This can be used for high performance computing or high density applications.

Anything new?
We know that the numbers game is difficult to play accurately in the modular data center space. It is often difficult to compare Apples with Apples. Digital Edition: (To read about the latest Container news, see our special technology insert - registration required.)

Of course some questions remain. What does a typical deployment look like (and cost) if it includes containerised generator sets and UPS infrastructure? 

Hp has not designed a one size fits all super-efficient data center product for every scenario which will always deliver super low PUE in the 1.05 range. It hasn't claimed to. But what it has done is apply its converged expertise in servers, storage, and networking with facilities engineering expertise to deliver a data center as a product which looks and feels like a traditional white space.

It represents a significant departure from the containerised approach. Full access to the IT equipment is maintained. It is pre-built with the IT equipment considered as part of the configuration.

If it sticks to its figures then it may have significantly shifted the technology and cost model for mid market data centers, though there are modular players able to claim similar costs.

It has made a play that its strength is in being able to design the IT configuration at the same time as the physical data center and not as an after thought.

Hp says it will deliver the EcoPOD fully deployed with IT in any configuration required by the customer with all the management systems needed to run it efficiently with the redundancy required to run at any tier rating (up to Tier3). 

This is not the Model T of a data center production line. Hp says it can build it any way you want.

It can control what happens in the factory and apply some very smart engineering to deliver against efficiency targets. But naturally the operational savings will always be dependent on load, density, redundancy required and geography.

In 2010, Peter Gross was awarded the Outstanding Contribution to the Industry at the Datacentre Leaders Awards

To come: Look for the video tour of the EcoPOD.