Tuesday Mar 24, 2009

What a Difference a Year Makes

When we announced Project Blackbox in late 2006, one of the first competitors to jump on the containerized datacenter bandwagon was Rackable Systems. Given their reportedly tight sales relationship with Microsoft and Yahoo!, one would expect that they would parlay this relationship into revenue sales for their containerized solution.

Apparently, so did Rackable. In the Register on 7 February 2008, Rackable CEO Mark Barrenechea suggested that their containerized datacenter sales "could be somewhere in the range of 20 to 50 (in 2008)."

Alas, one year later, the Register reported on 13 February 2009 from CEO Barrenechea that Rackable "did not recognize any revenue from its ICE Cube containers in 2008."

What does this say about Rackable's containerized datacenter specifically and the containerized datacenter market in general?

IMO, because Rackable is a relatively small company with total sales less than $250 million for 2008, it is more susceptible to the vicissitudes of the market. Or, as they say without the SAT prep vocabulary, when Microsoft sneezes, Rackable catches a cold. Furthermore, the Rackable ICE Cube containerized datacenter is narrowly designed for high density, fixed installations. Verari, HP, and Dell have created similar solutions and are competing for the same business.

Conversely, the Sun Modular Datacenter is designed and supported for the broader, global market. Ours is the only containerized datacenter with national and regional compliance certifications as well as fire-suppression certifications in over 50 countries and regions world-wide. We've done earthquakeand EMI testing. It's not clear that the competitors have done any but the most basic of testing. Ours is the only solution that can be loaded in a standard 747 cargo plane and flown to it's destination, which we've done many times already.

While we cannot reveal all of our customers, we certainly have customers - and more than one. You can see a few of our customer stories here. Going forward, I will try to elaborate further on our customer success stories in this blog.

So, what's the bottom line? It's a tough, new market. We believe a more diversified approach that we've taken with the Sun Modular Datacenter will yield better results in the long run.

Tuesday Mar 17, 2009

Apologies! We are back.

OK, so we didn't exactly pour forth with new updates and information since our "reboot" in September. Mea culpa.

Not to make too many excuses, but we have been quite busy responding to the world-wide interest the Sun Modular Datacenter has generated. In particular, with the economic slow-down, this interest has increased as IT and datacenter managers look for new ways to expand capacity with relatively fewer resources...but more on that later.

First I'd like to thank Paul Monday for letting me high-jack his blog. Paul did a great job of chronicling our world tours and other Project Blackbox/Sun Modular Datacenter events.

I am Maurice Cloutier - the product group marketing manager for the Sun Modular Datacenter and I will do my best to post new and interesting tidbits on the Sun Modular Datacenter. I will also try to post information and comments on the topic of containerized datacenters in general.


Friday Sep 12, 2008


Welcome to the Project Blackbox Blog, rebooted.

As you know, we are well past the first shipment and availability of the Sun Modular Datacenter. The tour units are in the garages (look at the price of gas and you'll get an idea of why they are parked for a while). Even I am busy working on our very exciting line of SAS JBODs, known as the Sun Storage J4000 family, various appliances and even the Lustre file system.

So, its time to reboot the blog into something a bit more "now", "hip", "current", "happenin". Yes, I know its been quiet out here and I see the hits are still up...so...

Look for new content. I'm going to try to keep it a mix between news, marketing stuff, and the most popular content...technical stuff. The technical stuff will probably be a bit slower, but be patient...technical content that is worth while also takes time to produce.

There are simple things like: "Hey, I can put 10 of these Sun Storage J4400 units in a single rack in the Sun MD for a total of 240 Terabytes (assuming I have the higher wattage racks)".

But the fun articles, like how to create a massive HPC storage pool with Lustre on the top, take a serious amount of time and thought to create. After all, its a bit like populating a corner of a datacenter...so you have to be careful.

At any rate, I'm excited to get this thing bootstrapped! Content on its way, Maurice just delivered some news into my 29,000 and some odd emails so ... sit back, make sure your RSS feeds are up to date, and we'll get some fresh stuff for you in the coming days.

Thursday May 15, 2008

Sun MD "Double-Wide"

We shipped our first double-wide Sun MD to a customer this week, I saw it arrived all safe and sound today! Well, by double-wide, we really mean two Sun MD S20s in a row.

Here is a picture of the double-wide leaving the factory showroom:

Just FYI, there is absolutely no truth to the rumor that a double-wide Sun MD is more likely to attract tornadoes to the locale. The increased number of tornadoes is only scientifically proven with double-wide mobile homes (not data centers).

Monday May 12, 2008

The Secret to a Successful Tour ...

... is having a clean truck. Dan sent me this montage of pictures (the originals are in the gallery) showing the effort that goes into keeping the truck and its payload clean throughout the 1,000s of miles of travel.

You may have also wondered, "if I were to get run over by this semi with the Sun MD unit attached to it, what type of truck, exactly, would I be run over by?"

Well, its a Kenworth Model T2000 (no, not a Sun SPARC Enterprise T2000 which merely runs over competitive servers). It has a Detroit Diesel Series 60 engine in it with 12.7 L displacement and 500 HPs (as opposed to the SPARC system that has an UltraSPARC T1 processor with up to 32 CoolThreads running).

The engine is Air to Air charged, cooled and turbocharged. It has 6 cylinders in a line that are microprocessor controlled.

It gets 5.5-6.5 Miles / Gallon (6.5 downhill from Denver, 5.5 up to Denver :-). The weight of the truck alone is 24,000 lbs., with the Sun MD and the trailer it is 62,000 lbs. rolling down the highway.

Thanks Dan!

Wednesday Apr 30, 2008

Sometimes Perspective is Everything

Have you ever wondered what a Sun MD unit built "in the spirit of" a Sun Fire x4500 (Thumper) would look like? Dan Campbell, who sends me some of the best pictures from the tour, took this interesting shot.

It shouldn't be a secret that I work with the Storage Systems Product Group here within Sun Microsystems. I see every day that the number of storage servers and storage solutions from Sun Microsystems is increasing at an incredible rate. I'm spending more and more time in the lab working with many of these storage solutions, including the most complete Open Source Storage Operating System, OpenSolaris.

The entire Sun Open Storage really resonates with me, and when I combine it with something like the Sun MD, the possibilities seem endless. The whole Open Storage message really boils down to (to me)

  • Open Software - transparency in the software that runs your storage is paramount. I don't think the pioneers of one of the most critical technologies in the world would argue that openness is the foundation of their success. That technology is encryption. The most successful encryption and security software is entirely open to inspection by communities of experts. It seems counter-intuitive that open software in the security field works, but this type of openness allows the world to observe the mechanics of what is going on to ensure the soundness. Open storage software platforms like ZFS and the drivers themselves that run our storage systems is a leap forward in ensuring the integrity of our data and can benefit from the same inspection that makes our world secure.
  • Open Architectures - All of our servers and storage should be able to plug into the most extreme data center architectures, this is the foundation of practices like IT Service Management and the foundation that it is built upon (ITIL). Allow your products to be purchased based on how they fulfill the needs of the services, not on some crazy closed architecture that locks a data center to a vendor's whims.
  • Open Protocols - Everything from management protocols to data path protocols have to be open to inspection and integration. What value is there in hiding these protocols from prying eyes? And opening them up can only yield innovation. System administrators are an incredibly dynamic and intelligent sector of our population. Their creativity in tackling challenging problems comes from necessity. When you combine a Sun MD unit with a set of servers and storage with which the management protocols (and data path protocols) are open to observation by the System Administrators, the possibilities are endless for innovation on how the administrators can observe and manage the contents of the Sun MD.

The Sun MD itself is based on open standards. The shipping container is an ISO standard, the racks are standard and the components within the Sun MD are put together to ensure compliance with local building guidelines. We don't force you into using Sun components within the Sun MD, though with our product portfolio I can't imagine why you wouldn't use them for everything from storage to CPU. If you do choose Sun Servers and Storage, we don't even force you to use one of Sun's Operating Systems...though of course there are great reasons to use them.

You may think I'm way off on a tangent (can you believe my "mentee" actually chose me because I do these sorts of things), I'm not.

Just like Sun MD is all about changing perspectives of "what is a data center"; Open Storage, should have the same effect on you as the Sun MD. In the end, "What is Storage". With an Open Storage portfolio at your fingertips and a data center like Sun MD, what could you do differently that various and sundry other vendors don't allow you to do today because of closed platforms, closed architectures, closed protocols and closed software. Should you trust a platform that you can't inspect?

Friday Apr 18, 2008

Excellent SunMD Review and Installation Slideshow (and notes)

I spent part of my morning (so far) reading an interesting and objective review of our SunMD program from The Uptime Institute titled New Product Review: Self Contained Computer Room in a Shipping Container from Sun Microsystems.

The review is quite detailed and definitely worthwhile.

Here is an interesting calculation from the paper:
"At full load, the fans in the Sun MD are estimated [...] to consume 1.2 kW for a hourly saving of 21kW. This equates to an annual energy savings of 184,000 kWh or 130 metric tons of CO2 emissions."

Other high points in the paper include a Q/A with the SunMD engineering team that focuses on the cooling aspects of the unit as well as a data center "Tier" rating that the Uptime Institute uses to rate solutions.

On another fun Friday note, our team recently worked with a customer to put a second SunMD unit in place at their site. As usual, when permitted by the customer, we bring a camera along to record significant details during the installation and bringup of the unit. We received permission from the customer to put the pictures up in a more public place so, here is some fun Friday slide time for you!

(I've noticed the new Firefox Beta has layout issues with the code above...I'm trying to figure this out to avoid the big white space you see on top).

Don't forget, we have multiple SunMD units on tour at the moment. In Europe we are in Madrid, Spain Tuesday April 22nd to Friday April 25th.

In the U.S. we are in Pittsburgh, PA on Monday April 21st and Cleveland, OH on Wednesday April 23rd.

As always, check the Registration and Schedule site for details on how to get involved.

Have a great weekend!

Friday Apr 11, 2008

SunMD Gathers Coveted Award as We Move On!

Our SunMD unit picked up the Government Computer News (GCN) Best of FOSE award in the "Other" category. FOSE is the largest IT event for Government held each year (what "FOSE" stands for is beyond me, please post a comment if you know).

Why did we win in the "Other" category? Well, there is no "Best Datacenter" category...but next year, here's a clue to the GCN folks, put us up under the Best Server and Best Storage category too...I'll rack up a grid in our SunMD or a set of appliances built with our storage products that will blow away the competition...and it will all be in a nice shipping container with 8 cables hanging out of the side :-)

We did make our swing through the D.C. area. Dan has supplied me with plenty of photos in the gallery including this one from a location near the Pentagon.

In fact, the tours move on with a stop today in Boston, MA and next week's stop in Rochester, NY.

I will leave you with a picture from New York City:

And don't forget...TAX DAY is upon us in the United States!

Have a great weekend.




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