Data center facilities pro

Mar 1 2010   6:19PM GMT

Bloom Box for data center: kind of expensive, and not that reliable

Mark Fontecchio Mark Fontecchio Profile: Mark Fontecchio

Forrester analysts Rachel Dines and Doug Washburn put a damper on the excitement around the possibility of running a data center on the Bloom Box.

Bloom produces a new fuel-cell technology that feeds off natural gas and can be used as an alternative to getting power off the electric grid. According to Dines and Washburn, Google said it has 98% uptime. In other words, one nine of reliability. The gold standard is five nines — 99.999% uptime. Though it may not seem like much, it equals a difference of more than seven days worth of uptime, which is nothing to sneeze at when you’re talking about running mission-critical applications.

Secondly, it isn’t so cheap. The boxes, which cost up to $800,000 each, will cost about 8 cents per kilowatt hour. That’s cheap compared to some utility prices in California and the Northeast, but definitely not when compared to Nowhere, Iowa (or Nowhere, Washington or Nowhere, Somewhere Else), where many big companies are siting their data center facilities. That said, if the electrical grid prices continue to rise, Bloom becomes more attractive.

The only real plus to the whole thing is being able to boost your company’s green IT credentials. That’s all well and good, and important too, but not necessarily at the top of a data center manager’s priority list. The Forrester analysts continue:

(F)or now the uptime and economic shortfalls of the Bloom Box will be a turn off to most data center managers. However, when these fuel cells start to come down in price and become more reliable, Forrester expects to see these as a significant technology in the next generation data center.

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