Sun, IBM and HP now offer data centres packaged in an ISO shipping container. This has advantages for large computing requirements, but the same technique could be applied on a smaller scale, using small containers. A container 1.3 m long, could hold a computer system with 8 processors and 192 TB of storage, costing about $1M. This would be enough computer capacity for a reasonable size company or government agency. A very large data centre could be built by stacking such containers in a low cost warehouse building.
As well as being available for smaller applications, smaller containers would also allow for easier transport, particularly by air and in small trucks. One suitable size container is the US military Joint Modular Intermodal Container (JMIC). The standard JMIC has dimensions of about 1.3 x 1.1 x 1 m. This could hold two standard 19 inch racks, each 16 units high, with space around the racks for cooling, power supplies, shock mounting and cables.
As an example one container could hold 2 Sun SPARC Enterprise T5440 Servers, with 8 UltraSPARC T2 Plus processors, plus 4 Sun Fire X4540 Servers with 192 TB of storage on 192 disks and 8 rack units of networking and peripherals. The unit would weigh about 900 kg, which is within the JMIC maximum gross weight. It would cost about $1M and require about 6 Kw of power. One such containerised computer would be sufficient for running a business or government agency.
The Gershon Report on Australian Government ICT identified 10,484 m2 of capacty in large government data centres in Canberra. This represents approximately 100,000 rack units, which would require 3,500 JMIC containers. For high density applications, the containers could be stacked six high using a fork lift truck in the pallet racks of a low cost industrial warehouse. One building 100 x 100 m (15 m high) could hold the computing requirements for all the major government agencies in Canberra. However, for operational reasons the equipment would likely be placed in several smaller buildings.