Project aims to halve cost of a data center

Taiwan aims to standardize the design of containerized data centers

The island partly responsible for slashing the cost of personal computers has set its sights on the Cloud, seeking to halve the price of the massive data centers required for the growing world of online services.

Taiwan's publicly funded Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) aims to create standards for building data centers inside 20-foot (6.1-meter) shipping containers, an idea popularized by Sun Microsystems in 2006 with its Project Blackbox.

As the use of containerized data centers has gained ground, companies such as Microsoft have highlighted a need for standard components inside those standard containers. The Taiwanese researchers are responding to that need, and hope to end up with a standardized container data center that costs around half today's systems, is easier to use, and saves energy.

"We hope to have a prototype available by the end of the year," said Chiueh Tzi-cker, head of the ITRI's Cloud Computing research center, during a speech in Taipei on Wednesday.

Microsoft called in 2008 for other computer vendors to start building containerized data centers, and since then some, including Hewlett-Packard, have developed such products. The original idea was meant as a cost-efficient, energy saving way for companies to add new customized data centers as needed, one container at a time, or as support such as a temporary surge in demand or disaster relief.

The Taiwanese initiative aims to make containerized data centers a standardized product, the same kind of standardization that has slashed the price of PCs over the past few decades. The leaders of the project also aim to create a Cloud software package for the data center.

The hardware part of ITRI's design will be called Container Computer 1.0 and will include thousands of servers inside a shipping container, Chiueh said. The servers will be made using commodity computer parts to keep costs low.

The software side of the data centers will be called Cloud Operating System 1.0 and will include a package of software provided mainly by major U.S. vendors. VMware's Virtual Data Management Tool and and Inter-PM Load Balancing and VM Fail-over, Tivoli's network/system management and power management software, Checkpoint's security system, EMC's primary/secondary storage management and Dell's Physical Infrastructure Management Tool appear to have already been chosen for the software stack.

ITRI hopes hardware makers from Taiwan will benefit by building the servers and other components needed for the containerized data centers.

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Dan Nystedt

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