A Data Center the Size of Your Refrigerator

Got some spare space in the garage? Maybe an empty closet at your business? You could be hosting a full-fledged data center if AOL has its way.

The former Internet Service Provider turned technology services provider has been working on a project codenamed “Nibiru” under AOL Services CTO Mike Manos. The project has several aims, but one of them was to develop a plug-and-play data center that could be easily carried on a small truck and dropped into place for near-instant functionality. On July 4, the day Americans celebrated their independence from the Crown, AOL received their first prototype.

They’re going through testing now, but if AOL’s plans come to fruition, they will have a unit the size of a French door refrigerator that can be set in place, plugged into the wall, and running in just minutes. AOL says that this will allow them to quickly deploy new services and infrastructure when and where it’s needed.

For now, the idea is to prop up AOL’s internal services through the Services Division (AOL’s IT department). These quick-set units will make up the bulk of AOL’s cloud services in the next few years, displacing larger, much more expensive data centers that are too centralized to be effective.

Google has something similar, being a mostly plug-and-play data center the size of a shipping container (and actually housed in one) that can be delivered to a site, put in place, plugged in, and ready to rock. Multiple units can be stacked together.

The AOL system is much the same, just a lot smaller. Multiple units can be spread around one site, packed together end-on-end, or spread around a city or geographic area. All depending on the needs of AOL or possible future lease holders.

“Our primary ‘Nibiru’ goal was to develop and deliver a data center environment without the need of a physical building,” said Manos in a blog post. “The environment needed to require as minimal amount of physical ‘touch’ as possible and allow us the ultimate flexibility in terms of how we delivered capacity for our products and services. We called this effort the Micro Data Center. If you think about the amount of things that need to change to evolve to this type of strategy it-s a bit mind-boggling.”

Yes, and game changing as well. Imagine a few years from now when a Micro Data Center can be purchased from Best Buy, New Egg, or even Amazon.com for a few thousand dollars. It arrives in a crate, can be unpacked and plugged into your network, and you immediately have a working, self-contained data center. Out in your garage, in a spare closet, on the roof, or even just on a concrete pad outside your building.

That would completely change networking services (for the better). This may be AOL’s return from irrelevance, delivered in a refrigerator-sized box.

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