Sun Unveils Data Centers in a Box

Sun's Project Blackbox aims to offer businesses all the technology they need in a standard shipping container.

Sun Microsystems believes the answer to some of the problems of power, cooling and speed of IT deployment in enterprise data centers could be found in a standard shipping container.

Sun President and CEO Jonathan Schwartz and other company officials on Oct. 17 will unveil Suns Project Blackbox, an initiative in which all the technology that an enterprise might need for a 10,000-square-foot data center can be fitted and delivered in a shipping box that is commonly seen on the backs of tractor-trailers rolling down the highway.

The concept is aimed at businesses that have run out of room in their data centers—either because of a lack of space or because they cant bring additional power into their facilities—but still need more compute power.

The container—20 feet long, eight feet wide and eight feet high—can hold as many as 120 Sun Fire T2000 or 240 T1000 servers, or about 250 Opteron-based "Galaxy" systems.

In addition, one storage-focused container can provide up to 2 petabytes of storage, according to Sun Chief Marketing Officer Anil Gadre. A container also can offer up to 15TB of memory.

The compact designs floor space is about a third the size of a traditional 10,000-square-foot data center. Thanks in large part to the chilled-water cooling technology, it saves up to 20 percent in power and cooling costs and can be deployed about 10 times faster, sometimes in a matter of weeks.

"Basically, it rolls up to you, you hook up your power, you hook up your water, you hook up your network and youre ready to go," Gadre said.

In an interview with eWEEK before the event, Greg Papadopoulos, executive vice president and chief technology officer for Sun, said Project Blackbox—which has several patents pending on its design—is the future of infrastructure design.

"This is the system, the next era in system design and system engineering for us. Its what we do," Papadopoulos said.

"You can ship these containers anywhere really cheaply around the world, you can put them together wherever you want them put together, and then ship them. You have them on the spot hooked up and running, and thats a very different cycle around not only speed of deployment, but also where you need the skills."

Sun will be showing off a container running Sun technology Oct. 17 at an event in Menlo Park, Calif. The company will begin working with early customers now, with full production scheduled for the summer of 2007.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about power and cooling in the data center.

Papadopoulos and Gadre said Sun is targeting several types of customers with Project Blackbox, including Web 2.0 businesses that are looking to rapidly build out their infrastructures, as well as companies that need to grow their technology capabilities globally.

Enterprises with high-performance computing needs, such as oil and gas exploration, also will benefit from this idea, as will people looking for a storage-centric infrastructure, they said.

The company has basic configurations for HPC, Web serving and storage, Gadre said.

He said the idea came from customers looking to speed up the deployment of their IT infrastructures or needed help in the power and cooling area.

Next Page: The efficiency of water.