HP pledges dramatic energy reductions with 'EcoPOD'

The modular data center, deployed in a matter of weeks not years, could save up to 95 percent on facilities energy costs.

As part of its massive converged data center infrastructure rollout this week, Hewlett-Packard is introducing a modular data center designed to use 95 percent less facilities energy than a traditional data center design.

The technology, called the HP POD 240a, compresses the servers and cooling technologies that you might find in a 10,000-square-foot data center into two 40-foot pods that share a common eight-foot hot aisle. If you do the math, that's about one-tenth the space of a typical data center. HP actually has come up with acronym for POD within its product nomenclature. It stands for Performance Optimized Data Center.

The cold aisle view.

The cold aisle view.

The EcoPOD can house up to 44 industry-standard racks of IT equipment (more than 4,400 servers). The design draws on HP Adaptive Cooling technology to decrease facilities energy use by up to 95 percent when compared with a traditional data center. (Those are HP's estimates, mind you; actual performance will vary depending on the load and location.) The potential power usage effectiveness (PUE) ratio for each pod is as low as 1.05.

Brandon Fears, who works on team that manages the HP EcoPOD technology, said EcoPOD can be installed in a matter of weeks rather than the 18 months of planning that might be associated with a typical brick-and-mortar facility. Fears said the product is being pitched at companies that are more "energy-aware" than others that have been including power considerations a primary consideration in project requests. The best place to deploy the modular data center is in a geography where free cooling techniques can be used readily to keep the data center between 75 degrees and 90 degrees Fahrenheit, he said. Geography will have an impact on the PUE of the data center, he said. The more temperate, the better.

Right now, the EcoPOD is available in limited quantities, starting at a list price of around $8 million. The HP IT team is using the technology internally, along with some early adopters. The technology will be more broadly available later in 2011.

HP isn't the only company trumpeting the modular data center approach, of course. IBM and Oracle's Sun division have been touting the idea for years, and Dell also is trying to get in on the action. The approach is likely to continue gaining traction: Just this morning, General Motors said it will spend $130 million to expand its data center while cutting energy consumption and costs. Modularity design will be at the center of that expansion.