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3/5/2007
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Image Gallery: Sun's Data Center On Wheels Rolls Into Manhattan

Once its in full production, customers will be able to order directly from Sun their own shipping container and select from a mix of servers, storage devices, and networking and communications gear.

At a spot normally occupied by yellow cabs and pretzel vendors, a mobile, 18-wheel data center crammed with millions of dollars worth of servers and other computer systems sat parked Monday afternoon outside New York City's Grand Central Station in midtown Manhattan. And it didn't even have The Club on its steering wheel.

The setup belonged to Sun Microsystems, which is demonstrating its new Project Blackbox portable data center concept with a multicity tour that features a complete data center built inside a shipping container and transported on a black, flatbed tractor-trailer boldly displaying the Sun logo. "It took us three months to get a parking permit," quips David Douglas, Sun's VP for eco-responsibility and chief technical officer on Project Blackbox, as he leads a tour through the unit.


(click image for larger view)


Sun's Project Blackbox, shown outside Grand Central Station in New York City, is a complete virtualized datacenter built into a shipping container.

view the image gallery
Logistics aside, Sun thinks the idea of a self-contained, mobile data center will catch on with businesses in space-starved cities like New York and with government agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency, whose workers often require rapid access to data and applications at temporary sites during disasters like Hurricane Katrina.

With that in mind, Sun is offering what Douglas calls the industry's "first generic mobile data center." In addition to being hauled on a flatbed, the crates can also be dropped into place by helicopter for location on rooftops or in remote sites. To date, the company has built four demo units with another six planned for this year.

Once it's in full production, customers will be able to order directly from Sun their own shipping container and select from a mix of servers, storage devices, and networking and communications gear. "We'd prefer it if they chose all Sun equipment but we'll provide equipment from other vendors too," says Douglas.

The crates include hook-ups for water, air conditioning, and external network links. A patented cooling system keeps cold air breezing horizontally throughout to prevent equipment from overheating.

Douglas says the price will vary widely based on configuration but added that the trailer parked Monday outside Grand Central, which drew more than a few curious looks from passers-by, contained about $2.5 million worth of high-tech systems. Forget The Club, put a LoJack on that thing!

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