Intel Joins Bid to Halve the Cost of Data Centers

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Intel is working with a group of Taiwanese companies and a government research center on a project that aims to slash the cost of a data center by nearly half.

The company is contributing chips, motherboards and software to the project, as well as other engineering expertise, said Navin Shenoy [CQ], vice president and general manager of the Asia Pacific region for Intel, in an interview.

The aim is to build data centers inside 20-foot (6.1-meter) shipping containers using standardized parts to lower costs and common software to make the data center more energy efficient. Taiwan's Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI) announced the program in June, and had said it would have prototypes available by the end of this year.

But it looks like the prototypes may be coming earlier than expected.

"I've seen a couple of them from the leading edge OEMs," said Shenoy. The term OEM (original equipment manufacturer) refers to IT hardware manufacturers such as Taiwan's Quanta Computer, Wistron and Inventec.

Shenoy said Intel is contributing data center manager software and node center manager software to the project.

The work with the Taiwanese companies synchs with another announcement that Intel made on Wednesday. The company plans to tweak its Xeon server chips as part of the Open Data Center Alliance, to make the chips work more efficiently for cloud computing.

The company will also develop software to ensure security and interoperability for cloud computing.

Intel also announced its part in creating the Open Data Center Alliance, a coalition of more than 70 businesses that have cloud research projects already underway. These companies come from a variety of industries, including BMW in automobiles, J.P. Morgan Chase in finance, and Marriott International in hotel and travel. The aim of the alliance is to lay out future hardware and software requirements so more open and interoperable cloud and data centers can be built.

The idea for containerized data centers was popularized by Sun Microsystems in 2006 with "Project Blackbox."

Other companies have jumped aboard to promote the idea, including Microsoft and Google, due to their own heavy use of data centers and the need for solutions to the cost and power use of such centers.

The Taiwanese program hopes to end up with a standardized container data center that costs around half the price of today's systems, is easier to use, and saves energy.

The hardware part of ITRI's design has been named Container Computer 1.0. It includes thousands of servers inside a shipping container, using commodity computer parts to keep costs low.

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