Sun's modular datacentre offers speedy installation

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Sun's modular datacentre offers speedy installation

Cliff Saran

Sun Microsystems has developed a modular datacentre, designed to simplify the installation of datacentre facilities.

Dubbed Project Blackbox, the datacentre is pre-installed in modular shipping containers, providing computing, storage and network infrastructure, along with power and cooling out of the box. Application areas include the military, developing countries and oil exploration situations where IT needs to be quickly established using limited network and electrical infrastructure.

Jonathan Schwartz, chief executive and president at Sun said, "Rather than trying to improve upon today's datacentre, Project Blackbox starts from the world's most broadly adopted industry standard, the shipping container."

Sun's aim has been to provide an efficient, modular, cost-effective datacentre design that would offer 20% greater power efficiency than existing installations. Schwartz said, "We can deliver an immense multiple of capacity and capability - anywhere on earth."

The Blackbox runs Solaris 10 and Sun's virtualisation technology. It can hold 250 Sun Fire servers, provide 2Pbytes of storage, or 7Tbytes of memory.

Gartner analyst Michael Bell noted that the more significant potential benefit of Sun's Blackbox is installation speed. "Traditional datacenters require months to design, engineer and construct. The Sun unit could be shipped and installed in a few days."

He warned that the equipment would weigh about 10 tons when fully loaded with computers, so floor loading may be a constraint. Another factor is scalability.

Bell said, "Our biggest concern with the Sun unit is scalability, since customers wanting to add more capacity to a full-capacity unit would have to do so in storage container-sized increments."

Gartner recommended users assess Blackbox against the cost of using outsourced facilities and alternatives like APC's modular, integrated Infrastruxure products.

Blackbox is currently in the late prototype phase. It is expected to be commercially available mid-2007.

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