Review of Data Center World Expo 2011

This past week I spent a couple of days at the Data Center World Expo in Orlando, FL. where people from all over the world descended upon the Marriott World Center for a week of technical goodness.  The conference had several tracks that attendees could chose from including Cloud Computing, Data Center Management, End User Case Studies, Facilities and Data Center Protection.  There was also the Expo that went on for a total of about six hours over two days.  It was clear that the theme in the hall was focused around power, cooling, cabling and efficiency.I didn’t have any opportunity to take many pictures of the show floor as I was staff for this event, but if you’d like to see some of what was offered, please visit Data Center Knowledge.  They have some great photos of the event and a little more in-depth coverage of the sessions if that is of interest to you.

What I did clearly notice was a real interest in Modular Data Centers (MDC).  In particular, the MDC from Dell Data Center Solutions.  While we did not have the actual MDC there we did have a scale model that have customers a real sense of the ventilation these units have, and through the use of a great time-lapse video of the construction of the Bing Maps facility in Longmont, Colorado, people got a chance to see just how quickly these units can turn an empty piece of land into a functional data center.

It wasn’t limited to Bing Maps either.  While that story had been out for some time, what people were talking about more was the University of Colorado Supercomputer built inside a Dell Modular Data Center because of the sheer size of the system (16,416 cores).  What I found interesting is the wide angle of questions we were getting about the Modular Data Center.  One potential customer was telling us that they were building a new city and that they wanted to plan for four data centers.  MDC’s gave them the perfect answer to what they were looking for.  The interesting thing was that they wanted to buy them completely empty and then fill them up as needed.  Once the gentleman who was asking about the MDC helped us understand what they were doing it made perfect sense.  They could not begin to build a traditional data center for what they could build using an MDC.  The space required was another draw.  When they saw the density possible I think they came by the booth three or four times to look and ask more questions.

It wasn’t just the Modular Data Center that got people interested though.  Dell’s Energy Smart 4020S rack that we had displayed also gathered a great deal of interest.  What people were able to see in this was true cost-containment because they can budget around a rack supporting up to 25kW at 25 degree Celsius per rack.  That is attractive no matter who you are or where you come from.  What makes it so attractive is that you are able to contain hot and cold isles easily using just one rack at a time, allowing you to grow as necessary.  In a time when people are looking at ways to become more efficient in how they operate their data center, power and cooling are natural places to look.  What about system density and efficiency?

What I noticed about this show was Dell was just about the only exhibitor to have servers on display.  Most notably, the PowerEdge C c6145 and the PowerEdge C c5220.  These two systems are at opposite ends of the spectrum, but clearly the people coming to the booth enjoyed seeing them based on all of the conversation, touching, etc.  And why not?  When you can cram 96 core of power and 1.2TB of memory in a 2u chassis, or up to 12 servers into a 3u chassis, it makes for an interesting conversation.  Of course, these were only two systems from an entire portfolio,  but it gave the attendees a good sense of what Dell is doing (and has been doing for four years) in the innovative Data Center Solutions group.

Finally, a word about the people that were attending the show.  Normally when I have worked these shows you get very few executives and a lot of system engineers, system administrators, students and hobbyists.  Not that there is any problem with the others, but this show seemed to lean much more toward the executives.  Most, if not all of the people I spoke to over the two days were some sort of executive.  They were also very focused.  They knew what they were looking to find out and they cut right to the point.  the conversations were all around total cost of ownership, efficiency and flexibility.

The next Data Center World will be held in March, 2012 in Las Vegas, NV.  We’ll see you there!  Until then, I’ll see you in the Cloud!

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