Sun Project Blackbox debuts in Asia

update Sun Microsystems' data center in a box makes its first appearance in Singapore, before moving on to four other cities in the Asia-Pacific region.
Written by Lynn Tan @ Redhat, Contributor
update SINGAPORE--Sun Microsystems' data center in a box makes its first Asian tour debut in Singapore today.

Project Blackbox

Dubbed Project Blackbox, the portable data center makes a scheduled stopover in the island-state from Oct. 2 to 4, followed by a tour in four other cities in the Asia-Pacific region--Beijing, Tokyo, Seoul and Sydney--between Oct. 22 and Dec. 20, 2007.

Slated to be officially launched worldwide Nov. 20 this year, Sun Microsystems' portable system was first unveiled in October last year. Several racks of computing gear, as well as power and cooling equipment are housed in a stackable, standard shipping container that measures 8 feet wide, 8 feet tall and 20 feet long. (Watch the video on the inner workings of Sun's Project Blackbox.)

For instance, a typical Blackbox configuration can support performance of 146 teraflops (trillions of calculations per second), hold 2 petabytes of storage and 7 terabytes of memory, according to the company. The cost of acquiring a Blackbox starts from US$750,000.

Cheryl Martin, senior director of business development for Sun's Project Blackbox, told ZDNet Asia that customers can configure Blackbox to suit their business needs. "It's customizable in that you can put whatever equipment in it that you want based on what ever your need is," Martin said. She added that it can be fitted with "half-storage or half-servers", or fitted only with servers or any equipment that the customer wants.

"So [if] you're going to build it as a Web-tier application, you would have different kinds of equipment in Blackbox, versus if you are building it as a data warehouse," Martin explained.

A government agency, for example, is currently looking at a configuration with integrated voice, data and video capabilities so that the organization will have access to "all kinds of different equipment" in case of an emergency, she said.

She also noted that Sun's portable system is approximately between eight and 10 times smaller in footprint, while still providing the same computing power, than a traditional data center. "What fits into a 160 square foot in [Project Blackbox] is equivalent to what would fit into a 1,500 square foot data center," she said.

Martin added that Blackbox is also about 40 percent more efficient in terms of power consumption, compared to a traditional data center.

While the data center in a box "can withstand shakes of up to 6.7 on the Richter Scale", it can only function while stationary, she said. "It's not meant to work while it's moving, so it's turned off [if it's mobile] and bolted to the ground... When it's not moving, and once you get to the destination, you turn it back on."

According to Martin, some companies have expressed interest in using Blackbox in the Beijing 2008 Olympics, as well as the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics.

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