HP sees channel gold in them there PODs

Inside the 20-foot HP POD visiting HP Canada's Mississauga, Ont. headquarters

Inside the 20-foot HP POD visiting HP Canada’s Mississauga, Ont. headquarters

It’s not going to be every HP channel partner’s cup of tea, but Hewlett-Packard is betting there’s an opportunity to ramp up partners working with its Performance Optimized Datacenter (POD) product line.

As its acronym suggests, PODs are portable or containerized data centre modules with the flexibility to be brought in on, or even run from a tractor-trailer.

The company’s Canadian headquarters currently hosts a visiting 20-foot-long version of the company’s water-chilled PODs, which HP (in concert with processor partner AMD) is using to show off to Canadian customers this week.

Selling a complete data centre – whether it’s a physical facility or a prefab environment like a POD, is not a simple process. But it’s one where HP sees an opportunity for the channel to get more involved.

Jamie Barnhill, HP’s POD business development manager, visiting from Houston with the portable data centre, says the company has run a number of training sessions for partners around PODs over recent years, and has done a number of deployments through and with channel partners.

“We’re actively pursuing as many opportunities as we can via the channel, and we strongly encourage partners to engage,” Barnhill said.

While PODs are a complex sale, they fit under the company’s industry-standard server business unit, which means that they’re technically accessible to a huge number of the company’s channel partners.

“In theory, if you can sell an HP server, you can sell an HP pod,” said Randy Milthorpe, business development manager for the Enterprise Servers, Storage, and Networking business unit at HP Canada.

Of course, many solution provides don’t have the kind of facilities services required around connecting, powering, cooling and otherwise designing a data centre, but HP’s own POD services team can bring those to bear for the company’s solution providers. And while the POD itself may be a significant part of such a mobile data centre deployment – and these deals are typically measured in the millions of dollars – it is by no necessity the majority. In fact, the servers, storage and networking gear that go into a POD can make up more than the actual shell of the facility itself. HP, of course, would kindly prefer if that POD were chock-full of HP servers, storage and networking. But in reality, anything that fits into a standard 19-inch rack set up will work nicely with the POD.

As well as the systems integration aspect, Milthorpe suggested that successful POD partners typically bring in their own vertical industry or application background, helping customers turn the portable data centres into a full solution.

Milthorpe also said that PODs are a great play in the service provider space, and that he sees opportunities for the company’s Cloud Agile partners to take a POD approach to building out data centre capacity for their own hosted apps or systems.

As well as the flexibility to be used on their own, in old warehouse space, or even on roofs of buildings, the PODs have a good economic story to them. Typically, Milthorpe said, POD deployments cost “up to half” of a traditional brick and mortar data centre to deploy, and can be run with 40 per cent less energy consumption. The company’s 20-foot and 40-foot chilled-water-cold PODs typically run around 1.25 PUE, while its current flagship ecoPODs, larger modular facilities that are cooled largely with air taken from outside and use air conditioning for backup or supplementary purposes, can claim PUE rates of 1.05.

As well as flexibility in location, reduced cost of deployment and ongoing management, PODs can bring a significant capital expenditure benefit to customers, as their modular design allows customers to build-out their data centre based on current needs, avoiding the early-days expenses of over-provisioning a physical data centre that must be built planning for the company’s data centre needs over the ensuing years or even decades.