Thinking Inside The (Black) Box
By webmink on Oct 17, 2006
"Your new datacentre is here, sir."
I had the chance to prowl around the new Project BlackBox datacentre-in-a-box today in the car park at Sun's offices in Menlo Park, and I must say I'm impressed by it - it's not just a load of gear thrown in a container. Danny Hillis has done a stunning job designing the optimum use of a shipping container as a computing unit.
All you have to do is connect three-phase, networking and chilled water and you have a working, 250-U data centre up and running in just a few minutes. The internal packing density is incredible - by aligning the servers front-to-back in two racks along the sides, water-cooled air is blown through them and that combined with their already low heat dissipation (it's packed with Sun low-energy servers) is enough to keep them happy. The detailing is great - lots of creative thinking on environment, management, contingency (fire, particle contamination, water and shock are all allowed for) and flexible yet efficient space usage.
I can easily imagine this thing providing end-of-year computing to a business, or an emergency datacenter in a disaster or a drop-in facility for a special event. What's more - and I think the point the designers were getting at - it makes the value of utility computing clear. This is unit-compute-power; big unit, yes, but as Nick Carr points out, just the same sort of unit power as was Edison's business in the transition from bespoke electricity to utility electricity.
This was a market that did not know it existed until today. Now it does - the phones have been hot all day and the market is alive. Just think of these pre-loaded with a full stack of open source software, waiting to be switched on on-demand. Seems plenty of people can already imagine that.