IBM Deploys Scalable Modular Server Room for SMBs

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IBM announced an agreement last month with Karad Urban Co-operative Bank (KUCB), a leading cooperative bank in Maharashtra, a state on the western coast of India, to deploy its Scalable Modular Server Room (SMSR). This deal will reportedly help KUCB to save nearly 75 percent on resource allocation costs. To date, IBM says that it has 40 deployments of its SMSR around the globe.


With UPS and cooling already built-in, SMSR is essentially a pre-designed and pre-fabricated data center. Of course, the concept of a portable data center is not new, and other top-tier computer makers such as Hewlett Packard have sold data centers that are packed into a 40-foot container, as well as smaller 20-foot versions recently. Compared to a traditional data center, one key advantage of a portable or modular data center is that they can be built and installed in a fraction of the time.


Citing research by IDC, IBM says there are more than 2 million "server rooms" of between 100 to 999 square feet around the world. It is easy to see how this would represent a tremendous market opportunity ripe for the taking, even if a fraction of them decide to deploy an SMSR.


So why would small and medium businesses want to consider an SMSR? As a turnkey solution, it would be possible to deploy an SMSR much more rapidly. Cost efficiency is also another factor, when you factor in the costs of having to hire consultants to properly design and build your own facilities.


One fact that IT managers often miss is that a data center is more than just a lot of server racks pushed into a corner room. Sufficient UPS power for backup and requisite cooling for UPS hardware, disk storage and servers also have to be considered. This is where the pre-designed SMSR will stand out in terms of higher energy and space efficiency. Out of the box, the IBM SMSR operates at an Energy Efficiency Global Benchmark of "Good" and conforms to data center standards such as TIA-942 and NFPA 75.


I took a look at three SMSR Configurations furnished by IBM. According to the slides, all three come with a two-hour fire-resistant shell, and cater to varying configurations of three racks (Basic), six racks (Optima) and eight racks (Ultima). All racks are full-height 42-U racks and factor in N+1 UPS and cooling. Cooling capacity for the Basic SMSR is not scalable, while the Optima and Ultima can be scaled up to 30KW in power and cooling. You can find more details about the SMSR offerings here.


While the traditional data center is not yet dead, it is no longer the only option available. With cloud computing gaining popularity for areas such as Web and e-mail hosting, perhaps it is time to consider whether an SMSR is suitable for your SMB's computing needs.


Meanwhile, Julius Neudorfer at our CTO Edge site has written about things to consider with such data-center-in-a-box offerings.