Sun offers data centre in a shipping container

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Sun offers data centre in a shipping container

'Black Box' computing package offers 1.5 petabytes of storage.

Sun Microsystems chief executive Jonathan Schwartz is scheduled to unveil a new portable data centre later today which is housed in a standard shipping container. 

Project 'Black Box' will deliver a preconfigured data centre inside a standard 20' x 8' x 8' container, allowing firms rapidly to add computing capacity.

The container will hold about 250 Niagara-powered or x64-based servers offering around 1.5 petabytes of storage. Users need to provide their own power and provide water for the cooling system.

"It is kind of like prefab housing: a trailer full of gear ready to go," explained Anil Gadre, chief marketing officer at Sun.

Traditional data centres are expensive to build because they typically require the construction of cooling facilities and additional power supplies.

A water cooling system allows for much higher server densities than in a conventional data centre using air cooling.

The servers in the container take up about one third of the space and cost about one fifth of a regular data centre, claimed Gadre.

Sun plans to create three preconfigured models, specialising in Web servers, storage and high performance computing.

The Black Box name refers to the system's ability to arrive preconfigured at a customer site where it simply needs to get plugged in. The vendor claims that the units will cut installation times by up to 90 percent.

Enterprises might place the containers on roof tops, in parking areas or in warehouses, suggested Gadre. Sun will also be marketing the units for deployment at oil drilling sites or by the army.

But even though the containers are relatively portable, the company will not be positioning them as a portable data centre.

"We are not expecting you to drive around on a truck with this. The real game is the ability to deploy preconfigured infrastructure," said Gadre.

Sun will start selling the containers directly to customers, but also expects interest from hosting providers such as AT&T and EDS which could place a data centre container at customer sites.

Sun has not yet determined pricing for the containers, which are expected to start shipping in volume by summer 2007.

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