Time Lapse: Building Dell’s Big Data/OpenStack MDC — allowing customers to test at hyper scale

April 1, 2013

Back in September I posted an entry about the Modular Data Center that we set up in the Dell parking lot.  Here is a time lapse video showing the MDC and the location being built out.

The MDC allows customers to test solutions at scale.  It is running OpenStack and various Big Data goodies such as Hadoop, Hbase, Cassandra, MongoDB, Gluster etc…

Customers can tap into the MDC from Dell’s solution centers around the world and do proof of concepts as well competitive bake-offs between various big data technologies so they can determine which might best suit their environment and use case.

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MDC in our parking lot, serving up OpenStack & Hadoop

September 11, 2012

Why use valuable internal real estate when you can just set up a Modular Data Center (MDC) in your parking lot?  The point wasn’t lost on the Dell Solution Center team who, with help from our partners Intel, is doing just that here in Round Rock.

The new MDC, which should be online in a few weeks, will host Dell’s OpenStack-Powered Cloud and Apache Hadoop solutions for customers to test drive and build POCs in Dell Solution Centers around the world.

Here’s the MDC being lowered into place yesterday.

Here are some pics I snapped this morning when I went down to get my coffee. (double click on them to see them full sized)

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Cote and I discuss Dell World and our new Web|Tech Vertical

October 19, 2011

Last week we held Dell’s first Dell World event here in Austin, Texas.  The two-day event was targeted at CxOs and IT professionals and featured an expo, panels and speakers such as CEOs Mark Benioff, Paul Otellini, Steve Ballmer and Paul Maritz as well as former CIO of the United States, Vivek Kundra.  And of course, being Austin, it also featured a lot of great music and barbeque.

At the end of the first day Michael Cote grabbed sometime with me and we talked about the event.

Some of the ground I cover:

  • Dell World overview and our Modular Data Center
  • (3:35) Talking to press/analysts about our new Web|Tech vertical and our focus on developers
  • (6:00) The event’s attempt to up-level the conversation rather than diving into speeds, feeds and geeky demos.

The Dell Modular Data Center on the expo floor (photo: Yasushi Osonoi:@osonoi)

(double click to see full sized)

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A Walk-through of Dell’s Modular Data Center

September 13, 2011

In my last entry I featured a video with the Bing Maps imagery team.  In it they talked about why they went with Dell’s Modular Data Center (MDC) to help power and process all the image data they crunch.  For a deeper dive and a look at one of these babies from the inside join Ty Schmitt and Mark Bailey in the following video as they walk you through the MDC and how it works.

Some of the ground Ty and Mark cover

  • The various modules that make up the MDC
  • The topology of the system
  • How the outside temperature dictates which of the three cooling methods is used
  • The racks inside the MDC and how they were able to pull the fans out of the individual servers
  • A closure look at the power module

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DCS systems, solutions and MDC steal show at Dell sales kick-off

February 1, 2011

Every year at the end of January Dell holds a giant kick-off meeting for our enterprise and public sales forces.  The event, which has been held in Las Vegas the last two years, is a four-day happening consisting of keynotes, sessions and a full-scale expo where the sales team can touch and learn first-hand about the latest and greatest in Dell solutions and offerings.

Setting up the DCS Modular Data Center on the expo floor

At last year’s sales kick-off, the Data Center Solutions (DCS) group had our big coming out party, letting the sales force know that we would be expanding beyond our elite custom system business, with a specialized PowerEdge C line and a set of cloud solutions.

This year the systems and solutions have been out in the market for a little while and we were able to share actual case studies with the attendees showing how our systems and solutions have been able to solve real customer problems.  The big new addition to the DCS line up was our Modular Data Center (MDC) which, until just a few months ago, was reserved only for a very small group of select customers.

Gearing up for day two of both duty at the DCS booth.

As you can tell from the picture above, the MDC took up a big part of our booth.  It served to house our PowerEdgeC servers and host a selection of our cloud solutions:

Additionally, to provide a peak at what PowerEdge C systems we have up our sleeve, we had several units in an uber secret whisper suite.

Our overall message at the booth was that although these components can be used individually, if you want to run “the world’s most efficient hyperscale data center” you’ll want to combine these optimized solutions and systems with the MDC into one hyper-efficient, integrated system.

Well received

Now as a member of the DCS team I may be a little biased but I really think we had the coolest booth there 🙂  It was great to hear comments from the sales force such as “this is awesome!” and “why didn’t I know about this?!”

We’ll have to start now to figure how we will top this next year.

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Tier5 first to fire up Dell’s 3rd-gen Modular Data Center

November 14, 2010

Last week, Tier5 who has taken over an old Mitsubishi facility in Adelaide was the first company globally to deploy Dell’s third generation Modular Data Center.  Tier5 is an eight-person start up that is turning the former auto plant into a state-of-the-art data center park to be leased by wholesale tenants including managed service providers, resellers and large users.

Instead of building out a traditional data center Tier5 went with Dell’s Modular Data Center (MDC) which snaps together like ginormous Legos allowing systems to be up and running in as little as a week.  The MDC’s modular nature also allows capacity to be added incrementally as needed.

For a great overview, check out the short video that ITNews did at the opening press conference on Tuesday.


To get Tier5 exactly what they wanted Dell’s DCS team worked collaboratively with the Tier5 engineers over a period of nine to 10 months to nail down the exact specs.  As Tier5 founder Marty Gauvin said, “Our engagement with Dell DCS was enormously collaborative.  We were able to achieve our objectives in a very collaborative way, and then go beyond them.”

So what is this thing?

The shell of Dell’s MDC solution is formed by a steel frame, rather than a standard rigid shipping container. As a result of this design, Dell can deploy modules with different configurations to meet the needs of different customers.  Each module houses up to 12 standard server racks and up to 2,500 servers. The design gives Tier5 the flexibility to mix and match hardware components within a module to better serve the specific needs of its customers.

The MDC solution contains two rows of custom-built racks with a center hot aisle, a design that allows  easy access to components for servicing and maintenance. The module offers an easily accessible connection point for power and cooling as well as IT management. It also offers multiple cooling options, including chilled water, evaporative cooling and outside air. This enables users to choose the cooling option that works best for the site and the climate.

Keepin’ it green

Besides allowing Tier5 to be agile and not having to tie up capital until right before its needed, the MDC also saves on a tremendous amount of power.  Tier5 estimates a best in class power usage efficiency (PUE) of 1.18 for the Adelaide modular data center.   This in turn will result in their customers saving approximately AUD $8 million in power costs per year.

Where to next?

So the first third-generation Dell MDC has surfaced down under.  Stay tuned to see where in the world the next one will pop up. 🙂

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Dell’s Modular Data Center — Hello World

September 9, 2010

Last week at VMworld, Dell held a Super session where we debuted a video walking through our Modular Data Center (MDC).  The group that I belong to, Data Center Solutions (DCS), created the MDC as a custom solution addressing the specific needs of a few of our big strategic customers.

(As background, the DCS group has been acting as a custom tailor to the “internet superstars” for over three years and we address customers’ needs by focusing on innovation from the individual node all the way through the data center itself.)

Don’t box me in

In the video you’ll notice that gone is the forced shipping container form factor and in its place, as the name implies, is a more efficient modular design that lets you mix and match components like Legos.

Take a look below as Ty Schmitt, the lead architect for modular infrastructure, literally walks you through the concept and gives you his insight behind the design:

[Spoiler Alert!] Some of  the points Ty touches on:

  • A Module takes up half the space of a traditional data center
  • Clip on modules let you add capacity as you grow
  • There are 6-12 racks per module or 2500 servers which you can access through a central hallway
  • The modules come pre-integrated, pre-configured and pre-tested
  • With a modular data center you get a single point for power, a single point for IT, and a single point for cooling as opposed to the 1000s of points you’d normally get

Extra-credit reading

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