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Sun To Unveil Project Blackbox 175

this great guy writes "A year ago, Google's secret plans for a portable data center in a shipping container were being revealed by Robert X. Cringely. Sun Microsystems is about to officially unveil its 'data center in a box' concept. Project Blackbox will involve the full-scale production of data centers in 20-foot-long cargo shipping containers." From the article: "The idea eliminates several major hurdles facing data center customers: finding an appropriate site, arranging the servers and cooling mechanisms in the most efficient manner, and waiting for construction to be complete. The company is touting energy efficiency as a crucial benefit of the confined space, as its patented cooling features can more accurately target hot spots than in giant warehouses. The box can hold hundreds of servers and save thousands of dollars per year in energy costs, the company said."
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Sun To Unveil Project Blackbox

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  • I have a Vision (Score:5, Interesting)

    by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) * <akaimbatman AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:34AM (#16468509) Homepage Journal
    I have this vision of a giant, square hole being dug in the ground, the walls being covered with borg-like equipment, then dozens of cargo containers being stacked and slotted into place as if they were large battery cells. It will be, the DATA CENTER OF THE FUTURE... (echo echo echo echo)

    *shudder*

    Seriously, I could see this being useful for the military. You simply air-drop the container, and *BAM* instant command and control. It would save the Army IT guys tons of time in getting the field systems deployed. It seems like it would also be good for portable sites like construction work. Unfortunately, I can't really figure out what you would need that much horsepower for. We're talking about a datacenter capable of supporting massive web server, remote application, and database needs.

    Those sorts of applications are usually fixed at secure locations. Why would you want to deploy them onsite? Laptops are usually sufficient for the work, and a collaboration server or two can easily be deployed in the existing office trailers. Wifi solves the wiring problem, soooo.... I'm not really getting this.

    On the bright side, the cargo container looks cool. :P
    • by zen611 ( 903428 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:39AM (#16468605)
      On the other hand, anyone with a semi-tractor and a cable cutter could steal your entire data center...
      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by charlesnw ( 843045 )
        Why? Why would you give this any less security then a normal data center?
        • Re:I have a Vision (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Kjella ( 173770 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:25AM (#16469581) Homepage
          Why? Why would you give this any less security then a normal data center?

          Is a laptop easier to steal than the old desktop chained to your desk? Yes. It's not so much about giving it less security, it's that a mobile unit is inherently a lot easier to steal than a fixed installation. I imagine time would be of essence as most companies that need a datacenter would notice quite quickly that it was missing. Cut the alarms, break up the locks, hook up the truck and when you're ready to go the whole datacenter is rolling before you know what hit you as opposed to start tearing down server racks. I suppose you could fix this by locking it down until you have a permanent installation, but then most of the point seems lost to me. If you're doing a once-over job on cooling and organizing then traditional datacenters do just fine. Stuff I see this as useful for is the type "Yes, I know we're moving next year when the new site is done, but we need more capacity now. Find me a cheap way to deploy it now but move it next year." That sort of implies you won't be embedding it in concrete any time soon.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Ravenscall ( 12240 )
        You beat me to it.

        Looks like corporate espionage is about to get a lot more interesting.

        Not to mention the smuggling capability to get new tech to rogue states.
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by naChoZ ( 61273 )
        Yes, but if you purchase the "Large" configuration from Sun, it comes with the optional camouflage/concealment package. Of course, I giant boulder with lots of wires coming out of it and a diesel generator parked next to it may arouse some suspicion.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by couchslug ( 175151 )
        "On the other hand, anyone with a semi-tractor and a cable cutter could steal your entire data center..."

        Only if you are silly enough to leave it on the container hauler chassis.
        Once on the ground, you'd need a rollback, a Landoll trailer, rough-terrain forklift, or a very large commercial wrecker and a flatbed.

        20-footers can be placed with a common commercial rollback (they don't need to be delivered on a trailer), and if desired they can be locked to anchors on the ground. Just pot the anchors (containing
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by freemywrld ( 821105 )
      The thing that is boggling my mind is this: they tout that this could be a viable solution for an upstart company, leading to easy expandability, but where would an upstart house the 'datacenter in a box'? They would need to find a viable location to store it, and then secure it. I'm not sure I understand how this is particularly useful outside of military applications where a mobile field command center would be needed.
      Anyone have any ideas on this? I'm genuinely curious how this would work logisticall
      • Re:I have a Vision (Score:5, Insightful)

        by networkBoy ( 774728 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:43AM (#16468709) Homepage Journal
        Latency.
        If you're main datacenter is in The Planet down in Tx and you want a presence in the EU without the cost of a datacenter you can drop one of these off at the local telco peering point and wham! instant local presence. Later when traffic dictates you could consider upgrading to a full datacenter.

        On a completely tangental note:
        Beowulf cluster anyone?
        -nB
        • But there are lots of datacenters in EU with space to rant, so what is the point in bring your own, insted of just renting a rag or to in a datacenter?

          Martin
          • Re:I have a Vision (Score:5, Interesting)

            by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:02AM (#16469065)
            The incentive is the many companies that can't plan. Something that can be deployed quicker than a lease agreed to for CoLo, that can be sited in a spot that doesn't require a mile of trenching for a new OC12.

            Today there is a dearth of quality data center space. A well-executed container-based system that allows for various equipment to be installed inside, and that can be pre-configured in a wharehouse and literally "dropped" into place (have you ever seen how they deliver containers in parking lots...) is a great infrastructure solution.

            The biggest challenge is finding ways to make it scale from an application standpoint, and really maximizing the energy benefits. My company was going to use heat pipes to the chips to free-cool servers; the problem is that a solution like that doesn't meet most IT organizations needs. (Could work for a Google, but not Citibank.)
        • Re:I have a Vision (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Silver Sloth ( 770927 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:50AM (#16468835)
          you can drop one of these off at the local telco peering point and wham! instant local presence.
          You've never dealt with BT. It would be more like
          you can drop one of these off at the local telco peering point and wham! instant mindblowing beaurocracy (please hold while I con...)

          On the other hand, if your relocating your datacentre to India, where your support staff are now located....

        • Re:I have a Vision (Score:5, Interesting)

          by coredog64 ( 1001648 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:11AM (#16469249)
          Not too long ago my employer went from hosting the datacenter on-site to co-locating @ HP's data center in Colorado Springs.
          It seems to me that Blackbox would be a boon for companies like HP. Companies can start with whatever IT infrastructure they need, be it a Blackbox or some organic collection of UNIX and Wintel stuff. When they've grown to the point that in-house IT infrastructure management costs more than it's worth*, HP trucks in a Blackbox. The client company moves data and does a test switchover. Then the HP Blackbox gets moved to the local datacenter and the real switchover occurs.

          *There are days when I question if IT infrastructure management ever costs more than it's worth, but it's at least useful to recognize the reality that some CxO will draw that line in the sand...
          • Actually that's an even better point than mine.
            Taken to the extreme:
            The BlackBox is then trucked to the datacenter where it is plugged into the logal grid infrastructure (multiple power and backbones) but otherwise remains unchanged.
            The datacenter is then really just a (hopefully shaded)big expensive secure parking lot.
            I could see this being someone's business model. Modular datacenter. How deep can you stack these? Two rows of three or would the one in the middle bottom location then cook?
            -nB
        • If you're main datacenter is in The Planet down in Tx

          Man, I always knew Texas was a big state, but they have whole planets??? Crikey! =)

          Cheers
        • Beowulf cluster anyone?

          Indeed! [wikipedia.org]
      • by Gilmoure ( 18428 )
        The college I worked at, in south St. Petersburg, Fl, is 3'-12' above sea level. As of two years ago, the data center was finally set up in a second floor dedicated space. Before that, it was ground level, in some old admin offices. I imagine the cost of this thing would have been less than the new building that was put up and can easily see the school directors going the Sun route, to save a few nickels. Having it on wheels would make it easy to evac, for the three or four times a year the campus is evacua
    • Re:I have a Vision (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Stanistani ( 808333 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:41AM (#16468673) Homepage Journal
      This is perfect for a COOP [wikipedia.org].

      Continuity Of OPerations... also known as your disaster plan. If you leased however many of these you would need to replace your existing datacenter (possibly on some pro-rated insurance plan), you would have a great turnkey COOP alternative. You could even have them trucked out to your designated COOP site and test your plan, then return them to the company after the test...

      It's also a business opportunity, if you look more closely...
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by AKAImBatman ( 238306 ) *
        Continuity Of OPerations... also known as your disaster plan.

        I suppose that really would work well with the whole "borg cube in the desert" thing. You configure your container, and the COOP provider slots it into place at their disaster site.

        Still, a borg cube? *shudder*
      • Why, if you are worried about the need to immediately lease temporary server capacity would you plan to always do it with physical servers? Isn't this product supposed to be obseleted by grid computing? This would seem to be a very niche product in the long run.
      • The only problem is that it is pretty small by most standards. APC has their "data center on demand" (I think it is branded Data Center Express now), but that is currently limited to 80kW. It should make it to 200kW before too long.

        At 80kW, it is about $1M, and includes generator, UPS, and cooling. I forget if it is a 40' or 53' trailer, but you end up with just 8 rack-equivalents.

        It's hard to believe that Sun has made a better solution in a smaller space, although the picture makes it look like the powe
        • The APC InfraStruXure Express is a full-sized cargo truck trailer, bigger than a container. It's not as mobile as containers are. But it does include the A/C units (Sun's product needs chilled water input, apparently).

      • by Chapter80 ( 926879 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:38AM (#16469943)
        One week ago, Jonathan Schwartz (CEO of Sun) declared the death of the datacenter [sun.com], as discussed on Slashdot [slashdot.org].

        Now they've put in a box for burial?

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SABME ( 524360 )
        Good point about disaster recovery. The first thing that popped into my head when I read this was AT&T's mobile CO, which is a similar idea. Essentially, it's a complete, self-contained telecom central office in two tractor-trailers that can be moved anywhere in the US to restore service, even after a "smoking crater event."
    • by LWATCDR ( 28044 )
      I can see uses for it.
      A warehouse can be converted into a data center without a lot of problems using these.
      Also you could put the out in your parking lot surrounded by a fence and a rent a cop.
      The warehouse could be a good example of how this could work.
      You need to add some computing power to a distribution center. Just put on of these in the center and you have an instant machine room.
      In a way it takes the idea of a rack and expands on it. I would love to see how you provide cooling, power, and connectivi
    • Seriously, I could see this being useful for the military. You simply air-drop the container, and *BAM* instant command and control. It would save the Army IT guys tons of time in getting the field systems deployed.

      There's this nut with a website (how unusual, right?) that details the idea of completely ISO containerizing [combatreform.com] the Army for deployments instead of using tents and building makeshift shacks, bunkers, and guard towers out of plywood like they do now. The guy has some very sensible notions, but his p

      • An ISO container datacenter would fit in nicely with this. I wouldn't recommend air dropping anything like this though. Airdrops are extremely harsh, impact wise.

        The existing datacenters are already air-dropped piecemeal, then setup in a battlefield tent on the ground. I guess it's all about the packing.

        There's this nut with a website (how unusual, right?) that details the idea of completely ISO containerizing the Army for deployments instead of using tents and building makeshift shacks, bunkers, and guard

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Dun Malg ( 230075 )

          The existing datacenters are already air-dropped piecemeal, then setup in a battlefield tent on the ground. I guess it's all about the packing.

          Do you mean airdropped or just airlifted (parachute vs slingload under a helo)? I saw plenty slingloaded, but never saw anything but "soft" material airdropped.

          The sandbagging was outright stupid (I guess several shelters collapsed from it), and the AC equipment was always on the fritz.

          Tell me about it. I spent my "garrison" time in Afghanistan playing plumber an

          • Do you mean airdropped or just airlifted (parachute vs slingload under a helo)? I saw plenty slingloaded, but never saw anything but "soft" material airdropped.

            I have been told that the machines were airdropped, but I don't have any personal experience with this, so take it with a grain of salt. A helicopter airlift would make a rather juicy target, so you'd have to make sure the area was secure before you tried to airlift anything in.

            FYI, the military does airdrop some rather hard items, including construc [72.14.209.104]

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by couchslug ( 175151 )
        Mike Sparks is no web designer, but is quite a bright guy and IMO the BattleBox concept is sound.

        Having accumulated a couple of years in tent cities, I'd much prefer living in a container (that could have held gear and goods when deployed) instead of a rapidly deteriorating, smelly tent. Rather than having to build wooden walls and floors as is standard practice for tents, a container is turn-key ready. It is far more resistant to fire and weather, and can be turned into a stout bunker with sandbags, revetm
    • Seriously, I could see this being useful for the military

      You are about 25 year to late. This is the way it's beed done for many years Have you ever seen a real life "TOC" (tactical Command center) basically it is a bunch of shipping containers filled with radios, computers and workstations. They can mount these containers on trucks and in some cases use them while moving on a raodway but typically they set up and deply big satilite dishes and antana masts with camo netting over the top. Many times these

    • A 20' ISO box is a nice small format that can fit INSIDE many conventional commercial buildings. The advantage of this is that it eliminates the need for a custom structure. You could populate a warehouse or similar building with these, then add more as needed. The are easily delivered by commercial rollback trucks (just call your local towing company) and are not difficult to place. They can be moved by forklift, or even fitted with casters. (Tandemloc make a wide variety of ISO handling equipment and thei
  • Hmm... (Score:3, Funny)

    by fussili ( 720463 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:37AM (#16468575)
    That thing looks like Optimus Prime's smartphone.
  • Is it IBM-PC compatible?
  • ...but will it run Linux? Quake? WoW? HalfLife2?

    Now that we've got that out of the way, I'd say this was an excellent way of delivering computing power. It's like a Webhost-in-a-box.

    I wonder how much these things cost and how much power they consume? I'd read the article but I'm an engineer and never read instructions.
  • Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Salvance ( 1014001 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:47AM (#16468761) Homepage Journal
    I'm sure Sun has thought about it, but there has to be some security concerns with housing your data center in an easily transportable cargo container. Their example of using the containers for a growing company like YouTube instantly reduced my "who would ever want this other than the military" skepticism.

    Talk about industrial espionage and theft opportunities though:
    "Hey buddy, what's that on the back of your truck?"
    "It's YouTube, I just picked it up out of a parking lot down the street"
    "Cool, I was just looking around for a container of MySpace myself"
    • Re:Security? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by aaarrrgggh ( 9205 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:41AM (#16470045)
      There are a couple good tricks for protecting them, stacking them like you would in a cargo facility is the first to come to mind, but Jersy Barriers on all sides would also complicate matters pretty well. Sandbagging the roof would also make it more work to get it out.

      If all else fails, make a stand that they lock into on the parking lot. Those containers really are built for security and durability.
      • "If all else fails, make a stand that they lock into on the parking lot."

        Instead of rackmount servers, why not rackmount containers? You can do exactly what you are suggesting with standard container handling fittings and basic welding equipment. The size and shape are such that any firm producing container trailers could easily make them, and they could allow a slid-in installation from a rollback or Landoll trailer. This would eliminate any need for a crane, and keep the boxes above potential flooding.
        Her
  • Imagine... (Score:5, Funny)

    by DrLZRDMN ( 728996 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:47AM (#16468777)
    a parking lot filled with those things clustered together.
  • by jpellino ( 202698 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:48AM (#16468787)
    The BlackBox is built with its dimensions in the ratio 1:4:9, and when touched emits a strong radio signal back to its creators.

    • by Rodness ( 168429 )
      And when you drive into it, it opens up a wormhole to.... Santa Clara, CA.

      Hm... and it'll do double duty solving transportation problems too!
  • What measures are in place to keep my highly-portable data center from wandering off?
    • What measures are in place to keep my highly-portable data center from wandering off?

      Hopefully your corporation has a few underutilized interns lying around. Place one of them near the Blackbox, with a sleeping bag, a bottle of water and a cellphone (to call for help), and you are good to go.
    • I can see it now, "Joe, the network's down, can you go check..."

      walks outside, "Crap, it's gone!"

      And some teenage geek across town who had access to his dad's flatbed is now running the most powerful torrent porn site known to man out of his driveway.
    • I got to a client site early Saturday afternoon to move my app into their QA environment. I installed the app, but when I tried to configure the database connection, I couldn't get through. I noticed I also couldn't get through from the test app, which had been working fine the day before. So I try to connect via the command line — nada. Ping? Nope. Called Operations, told them I couldn't find BBCPL0BT (whatever...) and could he check on it? Guy says he'll call me back. Fifteen minutes later, he
  • by dilvish_the_damned ( 167205 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @09:49AM (#16468809) Journal
    Can I get this in white? Our puchasing policy explicitly forbids anything "blackbox". Maybe its just a poor codename.
    • Seconded. Can we get it in cornflower blue?
    • Can I get this in white? Our puchasing policy explicitly forbids anything "blackbox".

      You're absolutely on the right track. First thing I thought when seeing it, was how incredibly hot the outside will get when in direct sunlight. Not only will it make cooling more difficult, but the unit could burn anyone that touches it, if deployed in the desert.

      Seriously, give the thing an awning.
  • They are busy stealing the idea from others. I wonder if they will try to take credit for it?
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by mritunjai ( 518932 )
      So ?

      Ideas are dime a dozen! You can have an "idea" for a perpetual motion machine, but that doesn't mean you can sit on it. Execute something and then patent it!!!

      Gosh, aren't we already sick of bozos patenting "idea" of 'doing an auction... uh.. using a computer' ? How'd google be any different if they did the same ?

      And BTW, Google couldn't have pulled off execution of the idea. It isn't like you shove a truck load of white boxes in there and expect them to magically work given the heat outputs (except if
  • Why does this remind me of the X-Files episode "Kill Switch" written by William Gibson?
  • Big events like soccer world cups or olympics and the like generally need large on site IT infrastructure for the press and so on. This sort of thing might just hit the spot.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by coogan ( 850562 )
      Exactly what we do - during peak holiday seasons we need extra capacity on our cellular network at various beachfront locations. We truck in containers with preconfigured base stations, and even have a few mobile switching centres on wheels which we use for both capacity and DRP purposes. Given the sometimes poor power situation in Africa we also have lots of mobile generators and portable masts scattered around the country waiting to be dispatched to tower locations in times of need. The container idea has
  • by Doc Ruby ( 173196 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:09AM (#16469205) Homepage Journal
    If Sun and Google can fit each container with enough solar cells to power it, and perhaps compact fuelcells for power storage, and several digital radio (WiMAX, etc) transceivers, these datacenters really can be deployed practically anywhere. They're gonna need onboard GPS just to find them for recycling in a decade. Or maybe they can just prepay for roundtrip shipping.

    Though if they can get Greenpeace into the act, maybe they can manufacture them biodegradable. Then just dump them into the sea currents for distribution around the world. Probably stay pretty cool, and no charge for rent.
    • by evilviper ( 135110 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @03:27PM (#16475613) Journal
      If Sun and Google can fit each container with enough solar cells to power it,

      Covering a house's entire roof in solar panels is barely enough to power several computers. Never mind hundreds of ultra-densely packed systems, needing heavy-duty cooling.

      You've got a snowball's chance is hell (get it?) of getting the necessary power out of a few solar panels mounted on the container.

      You have a much better chance, though, if you PACK this thing with portable cells, and have someone set them up, around the site. Though, you're definately going to need someone to stay around, keep people and animals away, and regularly clean sand, dirt, and leaves off the panels, or they won't last long.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Doc Ruby ( 173196 )
        I didn't say the solar input area was limited to the surface of one side, like its roof. Nor did I say the containers would be closely packed - rather, the only deployment I suggested was at sea, with lots of area per container.

        Besides, there is actually lots of incident solar power. Even just the roof of a floating container is 8'x40' = 320ft^2 = 30m^2. Insolation in the tropics is about 1KW:m^2 at noon, probably about 400W:m^2 considering nights and weather. So each container gets over 10KW. Even 15% effi
      • by inKubus ( 199753 )
        There's a company called Beacon Power [beaconpower.com] that has something called the Smart Energy Matrix [beaconpower.com], which is basically a standard container with a bunch of flywheel energy storage units in it. According to the brochure, it can supply 250kWh @ 1MW load. You could use this thing to store the energy to run the system in an emergency. Obviously you have to charge it up with something, but I thought it might be of interest.
    • What, cover the roof in photovoltaics? Ok, that's 20 x 8 feet, for 160 square feet of area. That's somewhere around 15 kW of total solar energy. With 25% efficient panels, under 4 kW electricity. Probably not more than 1 kW average throughout the day - enough to run maybe one server.
  • by Chanc_Gorkon ( 94133 ) <gorkon AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:10AM (#16469219)
    The military has been doing this for a while now or will be doing this soon so that Command and Control centers can get setup much more quickly. Setup the dish and they are on the Milnet and all set to support the handheld units in the field.
    • Question: If they already have a satelite uplink, why do they need to provide that processing power locally? This raises the question of what the whole purpose behind this black box is, if you already have access to the internet, which allows you to place data centers appart from your regular operations.

      The only advantage I can see is that this is the easiest way to provide one standard solution to many different customers. They get to own/lease their equipment, and know they don't have to share it with any
  • ... all connected together ...
  • It might have uses (Score:4, Informative)

    by dilvish_the_damned ( 167205 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:18AM (#16469401) Journal
    I could see this being potentially usefull in very specific situations. I could see even more uses if they would further armour it against the harsh elements. No one thinks about -40F until your trying to run a thousand man crew in some remote place in alaska, and you need to be semi-mobile with your main office.

    Well, now that I think about it you would really need to have a problem that must be solved on site and requires a lot of CPU power and a lot of bandwidth, and not so much need for imediate portability. Otherise you would use a semi-portable dish on the top of a truck to get some 12mb down and say 4mb up (depending on which side of the globe your on) to link you to a stationary data center. In this way you expose your assets a whole lot less and you are far more mobile.This of course assumes weather will not get in your way (which it does).

    Maybe the modular datacenter that happens to have bay doors is a good application, assuming your problem is big enough to warrent purchassing equipment by the bussload... as you need it.

    Nope, I changed my mind. When it comes down to it, I just don't see the potential for this super-product as its descibed here.
    Maybe quick geographic redundancy might be a seller...
    • by inKubus ( 199753 )
      Think BEYOND America. Think about needing NETWORK infrastructure over the SERVERS. Which would you rather do? Spend 8 months in Africa setting up a network or setting it up in the parking lot of your company and then shipping the whole thing in one piece. It makes sense, it makes a lot of sense. The problem is that a lot of people are thinking "why not just use a web based solution, then the servers can be anywhere?" Besides the latency issues brought up earlier, bandwidth is really quite expensive an
  • by OrangePeril ( 739827 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:22AM (#16469521) Homepage
    http://www.apc.com/resource/include/techspec_index .cfm?base_sku=ISXT440MD12RMBL [apc.com] APC beat both Google and Sun to market on this one. This is one of the 'coolest' ideas I've ever seen. Park this in a lot and have a replacement datacenter on demand, or drive it around the country like the Russians used to do with the nukes.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      There are no servers in the APC truck, just UPS and climate control. Maybe a gateway and switch for the satellite transceiver.

      Put Google or Sun's MDC in one of these, and you got a solution.

      From APC site: Standard Lead Time: Special Order - Call for Quoted Lead Times. Really? I hadn't guessed.
      • by doon ( 23278 )
        I just watched the video, but I don't think the Sun has backup power (or maybe even UPS) in there as the Article says

        Project Blackbox packages compute, storage, and network infrastructure capabilities into scalable, modular units outfitted with state-of-the-art cooling, monitoring, and power distribution systems.

        Well the Sun one Doesn't Solve the Energy and Cooling problem (really). If you can pack 200kw of cooling/servers in there, you are basically going to have to have to have approx a 60 Ton Ch
    • Very nice, but not nearly as hardened as a steel ISO box and has the drawback of being a trailer instead of a modular container.
  • by yppiz ( 574466 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:22AM (#16469527) Homepage
    The Internet Archive [archive.org] has a related design that would allow them to ship functional copies of the archive anywhere in the world. It's called the Petabox [archive.org] and it's designed to operate [chicago.il.us] in a shipping container, just add external power, bandwidth, and cooling.


    --Pat

    • Never underestimate the bandwidth of a petabox in an 18 wheeler?
      • by yppiz ( 574466 )
        Around 1999 or 2000, I may have set a bandwidth record for the Honda Accord when I moved 1TB of Archive data from San Francisco to Palo Alto in the trunk of my car.

        --Pat
  • by ReferenceDesk ( 1014631 ) on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:26AM (#16469619)
    The other bit of Cringely's article that may be relevant is the observation that the effective bandwidth of a shipping container full of servers and disks going across the Pacific on a freighter, is approximately the same as the total bandwidth of an undersea optical cable. Much greater latency, but comparable throughput. So, if someone wants to bootstrap a remote clone of their data center, preloading the information before shipping the servers may be smarter than building raw capacity and then having to load it over the WAN. Yes, you have to do a couple week's of incremental updates, but at least the base data is already there.
  • I like the Blackbox window manager as is. I don't see how Sun can make it better.
  • Having trouble clogging those OC192 NAP connections? Need some local cacheing of CONTENT? That's what Google had in mind-- thwart even the nemisis 'net NOT neutrality' issues and just run some fiber to the local fat routers.

    Then it doesn't matter if you're pulling YouTube streams in a death march.

    QoS jams? Local replication points? Just hook up the old shipping container full of those cute 8-core CPUs and drain the grid. At least they got some press.
  • by slashflood ( 697891 ) <flow.howflow@com> on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @10:55AM (#16470339) Homepage Journal
    ... that this project won't go into mass production. In fact, there is only one container planned as a solitary padded cell for a guy called "Jörg Schilling". All outgoing network packages will be dropped. Respect!
  • If you drive past the Port of Long Beach CA you see thousands upon thousands of shipping containers. Its like the warehouse scene at the end of Indiana Jones.
  • by maggard ( 5579 ) <michael@michaelmaggard.com> on Tuesday October 17, 2006 @12:54PM (#16472923) Homepage Journal

    I can see a market for this, as part of a package deal.

    Keep in mind Sun is probably not going into the business of selling just any ole data center, they're gonna be selling you a "Sun Certified & Supported Data Center To-Go". Arrange for delivery, plug the color coded cables into the color coded sockets, flip the switch, and for US$50,000 down & US$10,000 a month you've got yourself a fully managed outsourced onsite data center.

    Need redundancy? Stick one over in the parking garage, should something happen to the primary it's twin is a few hundred yards away with everything duplicated. Have a backup site in case of catastrophe? There's a discount, just sign here, the minute your primary site goes offline Sun will see to it your hot spare is up before the skeleton staff knows what happened. Need an additional data center? As part of the introductory package Sun will guarantee delivery, complete with data, within 24 hours anywhere in the 48 contiguous states.

    Heck turn these into complete turnkey blackboxes and simply sign service level guarantees with Sun. Pay US$10,000 month for so many cycles, so much storage, all managed and backed up, completely overseen by Sun. All you do is supply the footings, power, ventilation, and 24 hour access for their technicians. The savings in support staff alone would cover it all.

    Now all of these numbers are joke ones, but turning data centers into toasters, why not? Sun has been pushing pay-for-the-cycles-not-the-boxes for years, but folks want things onsite. So here it is. Standard. Efficient. Low-investment. Just sign the lease and pay the monthly bill and everything will be taken care of.

  • Jack Welch's dream (Score:2, Interesting)

    by ebh ( 116526 ) *
    Jack Welch told CNN, "Ideally, you'd have every plant you own on a barge, to move with currencies and changes in the economy." Now you can truck your datacenter to wherever sysadmins are cheapest. Goodbye Bangalore, hello Bucharest.
  • just a few days ago.

    Remember? Data centers are going to be replaced by drill-bits, or something.

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